Vegas clinches division title, lock up West’s No. 1 seed
The Vegas Golden Knights grabbed their third Pacific Division title in their six year existence along with the number one seed in the Western Conference for the upcoming Stanley Cup Playoffs when they defeated the Seattle Kraken, 3-1, Thursday, April 13 inside Climate Pledge Arena.
“We found a way,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “We’ve done that a lot this year. I thought our game was in and out. Not the start we wanted but played through it and played through a lot of patches of the game where they were on top of us.”
Vegas finishes the regular season with a record of 51-22-9 with 111 points in the Pacific Division. 111 points is the most points in a season in franchise history and 51 wins ties a franchise mark for most wins in a season. The only other time the team reached this 51 win mark was their inaugural 2017-18 season which ended in a Stanley Cup Final loss to Washington.
“Proud of the guys,” Cassidy said about the division title and number one seed in the West. “We won all we could win. In terms of the regular season, we got the division crown which I thought was well-earned.”
This is the first time in franchise history that the Golden Knights have been the number one seed in the Western Conference for the playoffs.
“A lot of people counted us out,” right winger- Reilly Smith said. “We always believed in this group. There’s still a lot of work to be done but I don’t think this should be understated and we should take at least a day to celebrate it.”
Smith finished the game with one goal that he scored with just over ten minutes remaining in the first period to take the early 1-0 lead.
Goaltender Laurent Brossoit got the start in net for Vegas and many would say he played his best game of the season Thursday night. Brossoit finished the game with 30 saves on 31 shots faced for a final save percentage of .968, making some key saves down the stretch to keep his team in position to win.
“Tonight was important,” Brossoit said. “Not for just winning the division but heading into the playoffs feeling good.”
Up next for the Golden Knights, they will face off against the Winnipeg Jets in game one of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. There is no set puck drop time for game one but the game will take place on Tuesday inside T-Mobile Arena.
The Golden Knights went a perfect 3-0 against Winnipeg during the regular season with two of those three games being on home ice for Vegas.
Defenseman Alec Martinez was responsible for the go-ahead and eventual game-winning goal when he scored shorthanded on the delayed penalty with just under seven and a half minutes to go in the second period. At the time, Martinez’s goal put the team ahead 2-1 heading into the third period.
“I think it’s important to celebrate things like this,” Martinez said. “It’s a long season. It’s a testament to a lot of strong, consistent hockey and commitment over the last seven months. It’s important to enjoy it but we haven’t won anything yet.”
Center Chandler Stephenson was responsible for the third Vegas goal when he scored on the empty net with 38 seconds remaining in the game to seal up the win.