‘Golden misfits’ power Golden Knights into Western Conference Finals


Vegas forward Jonathan Marchessault celebrates a goal against the Edmonton Oilers. Marchessault has been with the team from day one and is the franchise’s all time points leader.

The Vegas Golden Knights defeated the Edmonton Oilers 5-2 at Rogers Place on Sunday night and won the series four game to two. The Golden Knights won game one 6-4, while Edmonton stormed back to take game two. The team’s traded wins in games three and four. Vegas won game five before taking the series clincher on Sunday. The Golden Knights are advancing to their fourth conference finals in just their sixth season.

The opening minutes of the game were arguably the most exciting opening minutes of any game this postseason. Just 24 seconds in, Oilers goalie Stuart Skinner had trouble with a puck behind his own net, barely getting a piece of it. Darnell Nurse, who returned for Edmonton after being suspended for game five, then turned it over to Reilly Smith who beat Skinner to go up 1-0. Connor McDavid scored on a wrister from the far side moments later to tie the game at one before Warren Foegle scored to make it 2-1 Oilers in the first three minutes. The second period was all Jonathan Marchessault. The Vegas forward had a second period natural hat trick (natural hat trick is when you score three consecutive goals in the game). The Golden Knights put on a defensive clinic in the third and William Karlsson scored an empty netter to win the game and series. 

Smith, Karlsson, and Marchessault are all members of the original Golden Knights team that won the division and went all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2017-18. The three were bottom six castoffs on their previous teams. Once they came to Vegas, they had breakout seasons and made up the team’s top line. Marchessault and Karlsson are first and second on the franchises point list. Over the past six seasons, the three have helped lead the Golden Knights to a remarkable four conference finals appearances. “We were a bunch of nobodies,” Marchessault said.

“That’s what goal-scorers do, they end up in the right spots and hang around the net and you’re going to get your chances,” Karlsson said of Marchessault. “Also, he’s shown that he still has a pretty good wrister. Kudos to him, he’s a big-game, big-time player. It was a good game to score a hat trick.”

“I’m just happy to still be here,” Smith said. “I bounced around a lot in the League and this is a great place to play, and hopefully I can play the rest of my career here. If I’m a ‘Misfit’ for the rest of my career, I’m completely fine with that.”

“This was one step in the right direction,” Marchessault said. “When you think about it, we’re only halfway done to our goal here. There’s a lot of work left to do.”

The Golden Knights were able to play their tough gritty style throughout the series. They were good in the defensive zone and in the transition game, creating more offensive chances. Laurent Bossoit, who started games one and two for Vegas, left with a lower body injury midway through game three. Aiden Hill has started the rest of the series and made 38 saves in game six. 

It was yet another heartbreaking finish for the Oilers. After making it to the Western Conference Finals last year, they followed that up with their first 50 win season since 1986-87. Connor McDavid led the league in goals, assists, and points. Leon Draisital had 50 goals and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had 100 points as well. Ultimately, they struggled defensively with netminder Stuart Skinner getting pulled three times this series. Jack Campbell was great in relief and it surprised many that Skinner got the start in game six. The Oilers relied too much on their powerplay that was the best in NHL history during the regular season. Draisital wore down as the series progressed and aside from Foegel, no one in their bottom six scored in the final four games of the series. They will need more depth for next season. 

The Golden Knights will play the winner of the Seattle Kraken-Dallas Stars series to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. The series starts later this week.