Golden Knights dismantle Wild to clinch playoff berth

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY
The Golden Knights will have the chance to defend their title, clinching the franchise’s sixth playoff berth in its first seven seasons with a 7-2 victory over the Wild.

LAS VEGAS — It took all of 79 games, but the Golden Knights finally clinched a playoff berth by beating the Wild 7-2 at T-Mobile Arena on Friday night.

Marc-Andre Fleury got the start for the Wild, likely the final one he will ever make in Las Vegas. It was a far cry from the storybook ending he would have hoped for though. He got very little support from his teammates and in turn took the brunt of the blows from his former team, giving up all seven goals.

Most of the season was a far cry from the 10-0-0 start that proved so incredibly valuable down the stretch, considering the team struggles. The turbulence in their season was punctuated by the fact that they were coming off a dud road trip headed into the season’s final home stand after it looked like the team was getting hot at the right time just days before.

If Friday’s dominant performance showed anything, it’s that there’s a switch that can be flipped. At times this season it seemed like that switch wasn’t there. Obviously, the playoffs will prove whether this actually is the case more than anything else will, but a seven goal outing is encouraging regardless of the circumstance. 

Coach Bruce Cassidy said after the game, “It’s a resilient group. There’s no doubt. It’s something they want to do, (be) Stanley Cup champions. The process of getting here had some ups and downs this year. We’re all dealing with, you know, what’s the appropriate way to go about our business throughout the year to set ourselves up.

“Then you have your injuries and whatnot, and some ups and downs. There’s parts of our game where it didn’t look great, including a couple nights ago in Edmonton. But I think we’re able to put it past us most of those days and focus on what’s next. We’ve done a good job with that this year.

“I will say that our guys don’t live in the past. We talk about some things we can do better and move on. I know it hasn’t been the prettiest year in terms of our play…Now we’ve punched our ticket. Now we can start working on our game and then figure out who our opponent is. And I think you’ll see a lot of energy around the team as these next week or so that we get through these three games.”

The game itself was a formality. A procession. The Knights pounced out to a 3-0 in the first 8:35 of the action, which is all Logan Thompson would need for the night. Luckily, the guys were feeling generous anyway and gave him plenty of charitable insurance to ease his mind. 

The third of those three first period goals was the 30th of the season for alternate captain Jack Eichel, who reached the 30-goal plateau for the second time in his career. 

The defending champions added one more in the second and three more in the third complete the rout. Tomas Hertl scored the Knights’ fifth goal, his first as a member of the team and of course the first that came in front of his new home faithful. 

The Golden Knights will be on national television at 12:30 local time on Sunday as they are facing the Avalanche with a special featured broadcast being presented by WarnerBrothers in conjunction with their “MultiVersus” series.