By Stephen Hawkins
William Karlsson, William Carrier and Jonathan Marchessault are finally getting another chance in the Stanley Cup Final, after the first one that came so quick for the Vegas Golden Knights.
They are going back after making sure they didn't need another game against the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference Final.
Karlsson scored two goals and had an assist while Carrier and Marchessault also scored for the Knights in a 6-0 rout in Dallas Monday night over the Stars, who had extended the West final to six games after losing the first three.
“We’ve worked hard as a group. That was the goal since year one, to come back here," Marchessault said. "Our best game is yet to come. That’s the mentality we need to have.”
Reilly Smith, Brayden McNabb and Shea Theodore were also part of that inaugural 2017-18 Knights season that ended in a Cup Final, when they won Game 1 against the Washington Capitals before losing four in a row.
“That first year was a whirlwind and we maybe took it for granted,” said Karlsson, who like Marchessault and Smith has played in all 83 playoff games for the franchise.
Keegan Kolesar and Michael Amadio each had a goal and an assist for Vegas, which hosts Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against Florida on Saturday night.
The Knights led the Western Conference in the regular season with 51 wins and 111 points. The Panthers completed a four-game sweep of Carolina in the East final last Wednesday, but their 40 wins and 92 points in the regular season were the fewest among the 16 teams that began these NHL playoffs.
Adin Hill stopped 23 shots for his second career playoff shutout — both against the Stars. The other was 4-0 in Game 3 last Tuesday, when the Knights were already within one win of clinching the series before Dallas overcame 1-0 and 2-1 deficits in both Games 4 and 5.
“We kept them to the outside almost all night,” Hill said. “It was probably my easiest game of the playoffs so far tonight.”
Instead of having to face a do-or-die Game 7 at home against the Stars, coach Bruce Cassidy and the Knights got off to another fast start and never left any doubt about the outcome of this series that included three overtime games. They already had 16 of their 29 shots and a 3-0 lead after the first period.
“It was definitely our best game of the playoffs and it came at the right time,” Cassidy said. “You don’t want to let a team off the mat. After getting a 3-0 lead, there was some chatter about that.”
It was the most lopsided playoff loss for the Stars since the franchise moved south from Minnesota before the 1993-94 season.
“You just expect more from yourself in a game like this,” said Stars forward Joe Pavelski, the 38-year-old veteran still without a Stanley Cup after 17 seasons.
The Stars got captain Jamie Benn back after his two-game suspension for a cross-check to the neck area of Vegas captain Mark Stone early in Game 3. But Benn got only one shot on net in his 12 1/2 minutes and was on the ice for two of Vegas' first three goals.
The Knights led for good when Carrier scored 3:41 into the game after a puck poked from behind the net in the vicinity of three Dallas players. Carrier skated across the front of the crease and put a backhander in the net, the ninth time this postseason the Knights scored in the first five minutes of a game.
Karlsson’s power-play goal came midway through the first period made it 2-0, and after a penalty that likely had prevented him from scoring.
Nicolas Roy took a shot that deflected off Jake Oettinger’s glove and popped up in the air behind the goalie. Karlsson was charging into the crease when Stars defenseman Esa Lindell raised his stick and swatted the puck out of play, drawing a delay of game penalty.
With the man advantage, Smith took a shot from the circle to the left, which was deflected in front by Roy and then off Oettinger’s extended skate before Karlsson knocked in the rebound. Karlsson’s franchise record 10th goal for a playoff series extended the lead to 5-0 only two minutes into the third period.
“Real disappointed for our group for the way our season ended,” Stars coach Pete DeBoer said. “It was a case of Vegas going to another level.”
Notes: Oettinger had been 3-0 when the Stars were facing elimination this postseason, including Game 7 in the second round against Seattle before stopping 64 of 68 shots the past two games against the Knights. That was after Vegas had scored three goals on five shots in the first 7:10 to chase him from Game 3. ... Dallas was only the fifth team to force a Game 6 in an conference final or NHL semifinal after being down 0-3, and the first since the Stars lost to Detroit in a sixth game in 2008. Only two teams got to a Game 7, which both lost — the New York Islanders to Philadelphia in 1975; and the New York Rangers to Boston in 1939.