Los Angeles (AFP) – Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 28 shots for his fourth shutout of the postseason as the expansion Vegas Golden Knights advanced to the Western Conference final with a 3-0 win over the San Jose Sharks on Sunday.
It is another stunning development in the evolution of the NHL’s newest franchise as the Golden Knights are off to the league semi-finals after eliminating the more experienced and playoff battle-tested Sharks in six games.
“I got lucky a few times. They missed the net, they hit the post,” said Fleury, who won three Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins. “I am a little bit tired. They made it tough for me. I am happy and proud of the way our guys played tonight.”
The Golden Knights started the year as a team of rag-tag castoffs but quickly jelled into the hardest working team in the league that allowed them to get into playoff mode by mid-season.
Jonathan Marchessault, Nate Schmidt and Cody Eakin scored goals for Vegas, who became the third team in NHL history to win multiple playoff series in its inaugural season, joining the Toronto Arenas (1918) and St. Louis Blues (1968).
The Arenas won the Stanley Cup in the first post-season in league history and St. Louis won two rounds to win the all-expansion West Division 50 years ago.
Marchessault opened the scoring, Schmidt added an insurance goal that was only detectable by video replay and Eakin scored into an empty net.
Fleury recorded shutouts in games one and six against the Sharks.
Next up for Vegas will be the Western Conference final against either Winnipeg or Nashville. The Jets lead that series 3-2 heading into game six on Monday.
In Tampa, Florida, J.T. Miller scored the go-ahead goal on the power play and the Tampa Bay Lightning punched their ticket to the Eastern Conference final with a 3-1 victory over Boston.
After dropping the series opener 6-2, the Lightning won four straight to eliminate the Bruins in five games in the best-of-seven second-round series.
Miller scored at 14:00 of the second period for the Lightning, who reached the NHL’s final four for the third time in four years.
Tampa Bay move on to play the winner of the Pittsburgh Penguins-Washington Capitals series. The Capitals lead the Penguins 3-2 and can book their spot in the Conference final on Monday.
Brayden Point, with his fourth of the post-season, and Anton Stralman also scored for the Lightning while goalkeeper Andrei Vasilevskiy made 27 saves.
Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask made 19 saves but ended up losing his last four starts against Tampa Bay. He made 34 of 36 stops to win the series opener but struggled since.
One day after being threatened by the league with sanctions after he “licked” Tampa Bay player Ryan Callahan during Friday’s game, Bruins winger Brad Marchand had an uneventful game five.