UPDATE (AP) -- When Alex Pietrangelo signed with the Vegas Golden Knights in October, he didn’t mince words as to why he left St. Louis after 12 seasons.
“Obviously the atmosphere; I mean, I think everybody agrees it’s probably the best place to play in the NHL right now," he said. "They play the way I think the game should be played, so you want to go somewhere you feel comfortable and that you can help.”
His contributions Thursday night helped the Golden Knights move into the NHL’s final four for the third time in the franchise’s four years.
Pietrangelo scored his first goal of the postseason to break a tie late in the second period, and the Golden Knights defeated the Colorado Avalanche 6-3 in Game 6 of their second-round series to advance to the Stanley Cup semifinals.
Pietrangelo, who finished the series with 22 shots, 21 blocks, and a point in all four wins, now has 16 career points in 17 potential series-clinching games played.
“I thought he was the best player in the series, on either team,” Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said. “He was an absolute monster for us. Defensively, blocking shots, offensively, the goal tonight - that’s what we brought him here for, for this time of year, and those situations.”
Nick Holden, William Karlsson, Keegan Kolesar, William Carrier, and Max Pacioretty also scored for Vegas, which won four straight in the series and will next face the Montreal Canadiens.
Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 30 shots and moved into sole possession of fourth place all-time with 89 playoff wins.
Devin Toews, Mikko Rantanen, and Andre Burakovsky scored for Colorado. Philipp Grubauer made 17 saves for the Avalanche.
After firing a team-high 45 shots during the postseason, Pietrangelo’s 46th attempt found the back of the net with 18 seconds left in the second after he gathered a rebound from Alex Tuch’s shot that caromed off the end board, and he sent the puck top shelf to beat Grubauer and put Vegas up 4-3.
“That’s a bad average,” Pietrangelo said with a smile about his 1-for-46 clip. “Sometimes they all go in, sometimes none of them go in and you just continue to put yourself on a spot to score. You get the chances, the looks that you want, and eventually things will turn.
“Of all the chances I had, I wouldn’t have guessed that that’s the bounce I would have got.”
The third period belonged to Fleury, who stopped 11 shots in the final frame, including a one-timer by Valeri Nichushkin from the bottom of the circle to preserve the 4-3 lead with about 14 minutes left to play and keeping the momentum in Vegas’ favor.
Colorado, which blew a 2-0 series lead after winning Games 1 and 2 at home, becomes the eighth straight Presidents’ Trophy winner to bow out of the playoffs without making the Stanley Cup Final.
“Nobody wants to play just a good regular season and lose in the second round,” Rantanen said. “I know all of us wanted to win, that’s what we were pushing for.”
For Vegas, there were plenty of positives, starting with its depth. The Golden Knights have had 20 skaters register at least one point during the postseason, including 12 with at least one goal against the Avalanche.
“It’s the identity of this team — our depth,” DeBoer said. “Guys have sat out and then come back into the lineup ... we’ve had so many contributions from so many guys. How the guys have handled when they’re out, and then their ability to hop back in and make a difference for us, it’s been critical. You don’t beat a team like Colorado without that. We’re the sum of our parts. We don’t have that superstar power that they do.”
The Golden Knights didn’t need it, with guys like Holden, Kolesar, and Carrier also getting their first goals of the postseason.
“Dream about playing in games like this,” said Kolesar, one of the first players in the organization to take the ice at the team’s first-ever training camp in 2017. “Very excited to keep this journey going.”
The Avalanche did what they could to slow Vegas’ journey, as speedster Nathan MacKinnon took advantage of an early turnover, raced into the offensive zone with the puck and fed a streaking Toews, who beat Fleury with a snipe just 23 seconds in.
But an energetic announced crowd of 18,149 was reignited when Holden fired a shot from the point and through Grubauer’s five-hole, tying the game just 52 seconds later.
Karlsson snapped a one-timer between Grubauer’s skate and the post for his third goal and seventh point in the series to give Vegas a 2-1 lead. From there the teams exchanged goals until the game was tied at 3-all before the Golden Knights took charge in the final period to close the game out.
ORIGINAL STORY: FOX5 (LAS VEGAS) -- On Thursday night at T-Mobile Arena, the Golden Knights will have an opportunity to punch their ticket to the next round and become one of the final four teams in the Stanley Cup playoffs. After being down 2-0 in the series to Colorado, the Golden Knights ripped off three straight wins including a Game 5 overtime thriller in Denver, setting themselves up for a series clinching game on home ice.
"I think the mood is excitement about the opportunity and a quiet confidence," said Golden Knights head coach Pete DeBoer. "We know what our good game looks like, I think we've gotten to it for large parts of this series and we know we have to get to it early."
"It's cliché that the 4th game is the hardest to win, but it is," said Golden Knights forward Mattias Janmark. "They have it all on the line today, but we have to put it on the line too. We have to treat it for us as a Game 7 too and we have a big opportunity here in front of our own fans and it's a really big game for us, and we really have to look at this as a Game 7 and don't look beyond that. We have to put everything we have into this and hopefully come out with a win."
Heading into Game 6 Thursday night, the Golden Knights find themselves in a familiar position to Game 5 of their first round series against Minnesota. Up 3-1 in the series with a chance to close out it, the Golden Knights missed an opportunity at home and again in Game 6 on the road before taking the series at T-Mobile Arena in Game 7.
"You try and learn. It's not easy. We really wanted to win that Game 5 against Minnesota too. I think maybe we can bring the urgency up a little bit more than then and I think we will for sure," Janmark said. "We have a really good team coming in here too who has to steal one from us. It's going to be a battle out there. I like our chances and hopefully we can bring the crowd into it and get going, maybe get the first goal. That will go a long way."
For the third straight game, the Golden Knights are expected to have another sold out building of more than 18,000 fans. The teams says they want to use that to their advantage, but make sure they are not overwhelmed by the energy.
"It can be a slippery slope both ways for sure," said Golden Knights defenseman Brayden McNabb. "You don't want to be over-hyped. You give too much energy, you don't want to waste all your energy because it gets pretty loud in there, it gets pretty exciting. There are times you have to take a deep breath and be like, 'OK let's dial back in, let's focus,' and there are other times where you feed off that crowd so much. You got to balance both of them, but it's great to have."
A win Thursday for the Golden Knights would mean their fourth straight victory. The Colorado Avalanche haven't lost four straight games all season, and the last time it happened was January 2020, prior to the NHL pause caused by the pandemic.