Forward Max Pacioretty returned for the first time in a month and scored, midseason acquisition Mattias Janmark had a hat trick, and the Vegas Golden Knights eliminated the Minnesota Wild from the 2021 NHL Playoffs in a win-or-go home setting by a score of 6-2.
The Knights, backed by a frenzy of over 12,000 fans at T-Mobile Arena yelling, “Go Knights, Go,” stomped the Wild out of the playoffs and will advance to the second round to square off with the Colorado Avalanche, who swept the St. Louis Blues in round one.
Game one is scheduled for Sunday, May 30. Puck drop is at 5:30 p.m.
After dropping two straight games against Minnesota, Vegas needed an additional boost to pull the thorn from its side known as the ‘Minnesota Wild.’
That boost came in the form of winger Pacioretty, who made his long-awaited return to the ice for the first time since May 1.
“Absolutely,” Vegas head coach Pete DeBoer said regarding Pacioretty. “Huge lift, just writing his name on the board for the lineup gave our group a lift.”
He scored on a nice find from center Chandler Stephenson.
Janmark was the hero of the evening, however.
Early in the game, Minnesota mishandled a popped up pass which Janmark stabbed at leaving him one-on-one with goaltender Cam Talbot.
Janmark faked both ways leaving Talbot in no man’s land before sliding the puck past Talbot’s weak side for the go-ahead goal.
Minnesota’s Zach Parise would score later in the first to knot the game at one apiece concluding the first period.
Defensemen Nicolas Hague scored his first goal of the postseason on a missile from near-center ice that perfectly squeezed between Talbot and the post to put Vegas up 2-1.
“It was a ton of fun,” Hague said. “The building was rocking which is always awesome, but it was on another level tonight.”
Probable rookie of the year Kirill Kaprizov would once again be in the right place at the right time beating Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury for the second time in the series to tie the game at 2.
Kaprizov’s goal was the end of Minnesota’s momentum and the beginning of the Vegas onslaught.
Pacioretty scored followed by defensemen Zach Whitecloud’s one-timer from the right wing to put Vegas up two heading into the third period.
Vegas outscored Minnesota in the second period 11-2 all series.
The third period belonged to Janmark, who scored his second and third goals of the night to send the Wild packing.
Janmark’s third goal came on an empty net while falling down.
The crowd roared and the ice became flooded with hats as the crowd acknowledged Janmark’s well-timed hat trick.
“It's what every player dreams of; to score in a Game 7 and to win a Game 7,” Janmark said. “To score a hat trick is what everyone dreams of. It's hard to believe it would happen to you.”
Even goaltender Robin Lehner threw his hat to show support.
Lehner’s fellow position mate had himself an impressive night capping off a fabulous series.
Fleury finished with 18 saves on 20 shots. It was his fourth win in a game seven setting.
Up next, the Colorado Avalanche.