Updated May 29, 2021 - 12:02 am
Mattias Janmark started to blush as the Golden Knights forward was shown on the video scoreboard at T-Mobile Arena late in the third period.
Alex Tuch playfully shoved his linemate, and the announced crowd of 12,156 roared in appreciation after the trade-deadline acquisition completed his hat trick.
“It was a long time to wait between whistles there, and everyone was kind of on me, so you’ve got to take it in,” Janmark said. “At the same time, it was a huge team win. You kind of want to share it with everyone else, too.”
The Knights received offense from unexpected sources Friday night, including the surprising return of forward Max Pacioretty, to claim a 6-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild in Game 7 of the West Division first-round playoffs.
After nearly blowing a 3-1 lead in a best-of-seven series for the second time in three seasons, the Knights advance to face Colorado in a highly anticipated West Division final. Game 1 is at 5 p.m. Sunday in Denver.
“We knew it was going to be a really tough series. I guess that’s what you get for tying for the most points in the league is to get an opponent like that,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “What a great opponent they were because they gave us everything we could handle.”
Pacioretty, who led the team with 24 goals during the regular season, scored the go-ahead goal during a three-goal second period in his first appearance of the series.
Defensemen Nic Hague and Zach Whitecloud also had their first goals of the playoffs to help the Knights win their first Game 7 at home and avoid a first-round collapse that would have started an offseason full of questions.
Janmark had one empty-net goal in 15 games during the regular season after he was acquired from Chicago in April for two draft picks and had no goals in the first six games of the series.
He buried a pass from Nicolas Roy to put the Knights ahead 5-2 with 7:24 remaining and finished off his first career NHL hat trick with a diving effort into an empty net after fighting past defenseman Calen Addison.
“To score a hat trick is what everyone dreams of,” Janmark said. “It’s hard to believe that it’s going to happen to you, but today the bounces were going in. It’s a dream come true, for sure.”
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury bounced back from two straight losses and made 18 saves to improve to 4-4 in Game 7s during his career.
The Knights, who also added forward Ryan Reaves to the lineup after he missed Game 6 because of a false positive COVID-19 test, were averaging 2.33 goals in the first six games of the series but broke out offensively after another strong second period.
Pacioretty, in his first game since May 1, buried a feed from Chandler Stephenson at 7:44 for a 3-2 lead.
Whitecloud gave the Knights a two-goal advantage, as he moved in from the right point and zipped a shot into the top corner for his first goal of the postseason at 13:38.
Shea Theodore finished with two assists after being held without a point in the first six games. Roy and Stephenson also had two assists. DeBoer remained undefeated (6-0) in Game 7s.
“To come out and play a game the way we did in Game 7 when our back’s against the wall, we know what type of group we have,” Pacioretty said. “Moving forward it’s nice to play with that type of depth. We got contributions from every line tonight, and that’s the way we’ve got to play going forward and that makes hockey a lot more fun as well.”
Minnesota was looking to become the first franchise in NHL history to win its first four Game 7s, but the Knights grabbed the lead 5:09 into the first period on a fantastic individual effort by Janmark.
He intercepted a pass in the neutral zone and chipped the puck over Wild defenseman Ian Cole, who lost his stick.
Janmark settled the puck and, as his momentum took him the opposite direction, he tucked a forehand around the outstretched pad of Minnesota goalie Cam Talbot with a slick move.
But the Wild settled down after a power play and got the tying goal with 3:11 left in the first period.
Defenseman Ryan Suter held the point, and his shot trickled through to Zach Parise on the doorstep.
With his back to the net, the 36-year-old Parise, who was a healthy scratch for the first three games, poked the puck between his legs and past Fleury for his second goal of the series and franchise-record 37th career playoff point.
“I think as a group we’re so good all year kind of keeping an even keel and just pushing forward. We’re never out of the fight,” Hague said. “It’s a testament to that, we had two chances to close it out, one at home, once on the road and not being able to do that but coming back here, we felt good about our game.”
Contact David Schoen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.
Golden Knights vs. Wild
Knights win series 4-3
Game 1: Wild 1, Knights 0 (OT)
Game 2: Knights 3, Wild 1
Game 3: Knights 5, Wild 2
Game 4: Knights 4, Wild 0
Game 5: Wild 4, Knights 2
Game 6: Wild 3, Knights 0
Game 7: Knights 6, Wild 2