The Golden Knights won playoff series last year in Los Angeles, San Jose and Winnipeg.
They would like to add Las Vegas to that list.
During their run to the Stanley Cup Final last season, the Knights never had an opportunity for a happy handshake line on their home ice. Their first chance comes Sunday in Game 6 of their first-round series against the Sharks at T-Mobile Arena.
“We haven’t had a chance, and now we have a chance to do it,” defenseman Nate Schmidt said. “This is a special time. The fans have been behind us since Day 1. It’s time to give them what they want.”
The Knights’ playoff victories over the Kings in four games, the Sharks in six and the Jets in five last season meant the only elimination game at T-Mobile Arena was Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final. The Washington Capitals won to clinch the Cup, but Sunday’s game gives the home team a chance at a better result.
“It’d be nice,” forward Ryan Reaves said. “The fans have never been able to celebrate with us, so I think it’d be a nice treat for them and for us for sure.”
The Knights know finishing the series won’t be easy. Their elimination games against the Kings, Jets and Capitals were decided by one goal.
“It’s the hardest thing to do in sports, end a team’s season,” Schmidt said. “It’s difficult no matter what part of the series it’s in. This is a (Sharks) team that’s got a lot of experience, but our team has a lot of experience, too, in this area. Come tomorrow afternoon, our guys will be ready to play in front of our fans.”
Fleury doesn’t make Vezina cut
Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was not named one of three finalists for the Vezina Trophy (best goalie) on Saturday. The honor went to the Dallas Stars’ Ben Bishop, the New York Islanders’ Robin Lehner and the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Andre Vasilevskiy.
Fleury was named to his fourth All-Star Game this season but never has been a Vezina finalist. The 34-year-old was tied for fifth in wins (35) and ranked second in shutouts (8), but his save percentage (.913) was tied for 24th among goaltenders with 10 or more starts. His goals-against average (2.51) was 13th among goalies with 10 or more starts.
For the first time in the series, the Knights and Sharks were given a two-day break between games. Knights coach Gerard Gallant expects that extra rest to result in an entertaining Game 6.
“I think it’s going to help both teams with their energy,” Gallant said. “I think both teams will be ready to go, and that’s why I think it’s going to be the best game of the series.”