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NHL Playoffs Daily: Stanley Cup semifinal matchups are set

Written by 
Published in Hockey
Friday, 11 June 2021 04:39

The NHL's final four is set. The Vegas Golden Knights took care of business at home, eliminating the Colorado Avalanche to set up a semifinal date with the Montreal Canadiens.

Sadly, we have two days off from hockey, before the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning kick off their series Sunday.

Check out the ESPN NHL Playoffs Daily to catch up every day of the postseason until the Stanley Cup is handed out in July.

More: Playoff schedule | Playoff Central

About last night

Vegas Golden Knights 6, Colorado Avalanche 3 (Knights win 4-2)

The Golden Knights were routed in Game 1, 6-1, then also lost Game 2 of this series. "I don't think there was a person in the hockey world, when we were down 2-0, that thought we would finish this in Game 6 at home tonight," Vegas coach Pete DeBoer said. "That was real. A lot of talk about us being swept, being embarrassed, could we even win a game? We have a group with a lot of pride. They blocked out the noise and went to work."

That they did. Vegas re-embraced its underdog mentality and took full advantage of another packed house at T-Mobile Arena (DeBoer also credited the home crowds as a catalyst for the series comeback). The pace in this game was relentless, and it definitely wasn't a goaltenders' duel. However, Marc-Andre Fleury stepped up in the third period, stopping 11 shots. Vegas had six different goal scorers, embodying the team's next-man-up mentality. After scoring 10 goals on 62 shots in the first two games of the series, Colorado's offense dried up, scoring only eight goals on 101 shots on goal over the last four games. For the third straight season, Colorado has been eliminated in the second round.

The semifinal series between Vegas and Montreal will feature some juicy storylines. For starters, it's the first time a Canadian team will face an American team this NHL season -- finally, we get to see some new opponents. As Fleury nears the end of his Hall of Fame career, he gets a chance to win a series against the team from his home province, Quebec. And he'll duel against one of his great contemporaries, Carey Price.

Perhaps the juiciest subplot: Golden Knights winger Max Pacioretty faces the team he captained for three years. Pacioretty was traded in 2018, and the key player coming to Montreal was then-prospect Nick Suzuki, who is now an ascending center for the Canadiens. Though Vegas has been in the league for only four years, the Golden Knights are getting impatient for a Stanley Cup. Montreal, meanwhile, is Canada's last hope this year to break out of the country's drought (the Habs were the last Canadian team to win, back in 1993). Buckle up, this should be a fun one! Full recap


Three stars of the night

Alex Pietrangelo, D, Vegas Golden Knights

The former St. Louis Blues captain scored his first goal of the postseason, which finally came after being the team's shots on goal leader (he's now up to 45). High praise from his coach: "I thought he was the best player in the series, on either team."

Keegan Kolesar, RW, Vegas Golden Knights

The Golden Knights have a history of role players stepping up, and Kolesar is the latest to do it in a big moment.

William Carrier, LW, Vegas Golden Knights

Carrier, an original member of the Golden Knights, also scored his first goal of the postseason -- a huge one in the third period that gave Vegas a two-goal lead with 8:14 remaining.

Carrier is one of four Quebec-born players on the Knights roster (along with Fleury, Jonathan Marchessault and Nicolas Roy) meaning the next round against Montreal is a treat. "It's going to be tough for the family," Carrier said. "I think it's going to be divided back there."


Quote of the day

"I'm going into my ninth year next year and haven't won s---. I'm definitely motivated. It just sucks."

-- Avalanche star center Nathan MacKinnon


Stat of the day

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 2021 Avalanche are the third team in NHL history to begin a postseason with at least six consecutive wins and then lose their next four, joining the 1999 Red Wings and 1969 Blues. They're the first Presidents' Trophy winner to do so.


Moment of the day

There's nothing like the Stanley Cup playoffs handshake line. Mark Stone was matched against Nathan MacKinnon and the Colorado top line. From Game 3 on, Stone stifled them. But there's still a ton of respect.

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