May 20 (UPI) — The Vegas Golden Knights reached the Stanley Cup finals after closing out the Winnipeg Jets in five games.
The Golden Knights took a 2-1 victory Sunday at Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg, Manitoba, becoming the first expansion team to reach the Stanley Cup finals in its debut season since the 1967-68 St. Louis Blues.
Vegas did not trail Winnipeg in the final four games of the Western Conference finals, after a Game 1 loss to the Jets. That lead ran for a total of 240 consecutive minutes, either tied or leading the game, per ESPN Stats & Info.
“We call ourselves the ‘Golden Misfits’ for. a reason,” said Ryan Reaves, who scored the game-winning goal, said in the postgame press conference. “I think we’re doing a good job of proving everyone wrong.”
Golden Knights forward Alex Tuch scored the initial goal in the first period to give Vegas a 1-0 lead. It was Tuch’s sixth goal of the postseason and second in the series versus the Jets.
Vegas center Ryan Carpenter — who was credited with the assist on the score — had the puck bounce off his skate into an awaiting Tuch, who buried the chance.
Late in the first period, Winnipeg center Bryan Little won a face off directly toward defenseman Josh Morrissey, who one-timed the puck past Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to even the score at 1-1.
Vegas, showing the depth which guided them all season, used a fourth-line shift led by Reaves to score the decisive goal in the second period. Reaves deflected a shot from defenseman Luca Sbisa to beat the post and Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck.
It was Reaves’ first-ever goal for the Golden Knights after being acquired in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins at the trade deadline.
Fleury made 31 saves on 32 shots for a save percentage of .969. Hellebuyck saved 30 of 32 chances (.938 save percentage).
The Golden Knights await the winner of the Tampa Bay Lightning-Washington Capitals Eastern Conference finals series, which saw the Lightning take a 3-2 victory Saturday night.
The Lightning hold a 3-2 series lead with a potential series-deciding Game 6 looming at 8 p.m. Monday. A potential Game 7 is planned for 8 p.m. Wednesday in Tampa, Fla.