Vegas Golden Knights finally found a crack in the stone wall of Vancouver Canucks goalkeeper Thatcher Deco shot him after being shot Friday until – finally – one ball fell to knock out the last Canadian team from the NHL Qualifiers.
“That goalkeeper was unbelievable. He was tough to get past,” said Vegas striker Jonathan Marcisault.
“[But] Right off the bat we knew it was our game tonight. And we kept moving forward no matter what adversity we faced, be it fatal penalties or a hot goalkeeper, we kept moving forward, staying positive in the locker room.
“It paid off.”
Watch | Late Theodore’s sign helped the Golden Knights defeat the Canucks:
The Golden Knights will face the Dallas Stars at the Western Conference.
DIMCO kept the Canucks in the match, which saw Vancouver win 36-14, in the third consecutive match of the Puck Off Championships.
Vegas were 3-1 up in the series before Demco came to relief to injured rookie Jacob Markstrom in the fifth game. He stopped the Golden Knights by stopping 90 of 91 rounds during the next two matches, allowing Vancouver a 2–1, 4-0 win and a series tie.
Friday’s match was the same scenario: Vegas took control of the Canucks, letting them run at their end as the Golden Knights fired shot after shot, many of which were blocked or missed. When they found their mark, Demko ejected the disc through traffic or flicked a pillow to stop it.
Vegas had 21 rounds during the first two terms while Vancouver had six. Vegas goalkeeper Robin Lehner was so hungry for action that during one television hiatus he skated the Blue Line and extended the leg to stay lean.
“There were times when I felt like we could play for six hours and not score a goal [Demko]Vegas coach Peter DeBore said.
“What he did and the lightning they shot in the bottle in his last three matches with him and how he played, what I’m most proud of is how our group has held on to him.
“When you hit a goalkeeper who is hot like this a lot, you can fall into the trap of cheating trying to press for the attack.”
Vancouver had two big chances in the second period to flip the script but both times were rejected.
First, Lehner shines the night on, flashing his glove to drop Brock Boeser’s shot onto a wide open net.
Watch | Lehner clears Boss’s way to score 0-0:
Then Vegas killed five minutes of hard play in Vancouver after winger Ryan Reeves misconducted the match with a shoulder-to-chin injury on Tyler Mott.
Lehner, who made his 12th start in the qualifiers, had 14 saves to advance to 8-4. This was his third shutdown in the series.
It was the fifth match for both teams in seven nights.
“I’m not going to lie, it was a lot of hockey,” said Vancouver Captain Bo Horvat. “But we can’t make excuses ourselves. They have played the same amount of hockey in the same amount of time.
“We’d like to help [Demko] A little out. He might not break as much as he did, but he stood tall. It was a brick wall for us. I couldn’t be more proud of our men. “
Winning averting the deja vu disaster of the Golden Knights.
After advancing to the Stanley Cup Final in the inaugural 2018 season, Vegas were 3-1 ahead of the San Jose Sharks in the first playoffs last year only to lose three in a row and return home.
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Theodore led the way against Vancouver, scoring two goals and seven assists. Mark Stone led all of the Vegas strikers with two goals and seven points in the series.
The Golden Knights were 39-24-8, well for seventh overall, when the NHL halted, then canceled, the regular season on March 12 due to the spread of COVID-19. Canucks was 36-27-6, 18 overall.
All matches in the Western Qualifiers Conference were played without spectators at Rogers Place. Isolating players between competitions in the so-called bubble to prevent infection with COVID-19.
Despite the loss, the qualifiers represented a step forward for Canucks.
The drought at the Stanley Cup in Canada extends to another year
Vancouver has not participated in the qualifiers since 2015. Canucks defeated Minnesota Wild in this year’s qualifying round, then sent the reigning Stanley Saint Louis Blues in six matches, the first win for Vancouver in a playoff series since 2011.
The last Canucks win over the Sharks in Series Four was in 2011. Vancouver lost to the Boston Bruins that year in the Stanley Cup Final.
Half of this season’s roster, including key players like Markstrom, Demko, Elias Pettersson, Boeser and Quinn Hughes, now have 17 games of playoff experience, including throwback shows and elimination games, to take advantage of.
Their best players were their best in the post-season period: Peterson scored seven goals and 18 points. Horvat scored 10 goals, GT Miller scored one goal and seven assists against Vegas.
Vancouver coach Travis Green said, “I don’t think a lot of people thought we’d be far from the first leg of the semi-finals.” “There aren’t a lot of times you enter qualifiers with 10 men playing their first playoff game and winning the Stanley Cup.
“You have to fall. You have to get up. You have to fall and get up and learn how difficult it is. This was a good experience for our youth and we would be much better for it.”
Meanwhile, the drought in Canada’s Stanley Cup is constantly spreading.
No Canadian team has won the Stanley Cup since defeating the Montreal Canadiens at the Los Angeles Kings in June 1993.
For context, in June 1993, when the trophy lockup was lifted, Kim Campbell was days away from taking over as Canada’s first Prime Minister, the NHL had 24 teams, Sydney Crosby was five, and Connor McDavid would not be born for three years. And another seven months.
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