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When Alex Pietrangelo signed with the Vegas Golden Knights in October, he didn’t mince why he left St. Louis after 12 seasons.
“Obviously the atmosphere; I mean, I think everyone agrees that this is 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’re comfortable and can help.”
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His contributions on Thursday night helped the Golden Knights advance to the NHL Final Four for the third time in the franchise’s four years.
Pietrangelo scored his first postseason goal to break a tie towards the end of the second period, and the Golden Knights defeated the Colorado Avalanche 6-3 in Game 6 of their second-round series to reach the Stanley Cup semi-finals.
Pietrangelo, who finished the series with 22 shots, 21 blocks, and one point on all four wins, now has 16 career points in 17 possible series-leading games.
“I thought he was the best player of the series, on both teams,” said Vegas coach Peter DeBoer. “He was an absolute monster for us. Defensive, blocking shots, attacking the goal tonight – that’s why we brought him here for this time of the year and these situations.”
Nick Holden, William Karlsson, Keegan Kolesar, William Carrier and Max Pacioretty also scored for Vegas, which won four straight wins in the series and will next take on the Montreal Canadiens.
Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 30 shots and moved into sole possession of fourth place of all time with 89 playoff wins.
Devin Toews, Mikko Rantanen and Andre Burakovsky scored for Colorado. Philipp Grubauer made 17 parades for the avalanche.
After Pietrangelo fired 45 shots at team height in the postseason, Pietrangelo’s 46th attempt found the back of the net 18 seconds before the end in the second after receiving a ricochet from Alex Cloth’s shot off the end board and sending the puck up Regal to defeat Grubauer and bring Vegas 4-3 to the top.
“That’s a bad average,” said Pietrangelo with a smile over his 1-for-46 clip. “Sometimes everyone goes in, sometimes nobody goes in and you just continue to sit down on one point in order to score. You get the chances, the looks you want, and at some point things will change.
“Of all the chances I had, I didn’t think this was the jump I would have gotten.”
The third third belonged to Fleury, who stopped 11 shots in the final frame, including a one-timer from Valeri Nichushkin from the bottom of the circle to hold the 4-3 lead with about 14 minutes left and keep the momentum going in Vegas’ Like.
Colorado, which lost a 2-0 lead at home after winning Games 1 and 2, is the eighth consecutive Presidents’ Trophy winner to drop out of the playoffs without reaching the Stanley Cup final.
“Nobody just wants to play a good regular season and lose in the second round,” said Rantanen. “I know we all wanted to win, we pushed for that.”
There were many positives to Vegas, starting with the depth. At the Golden Knights, 20 skaters scored at least one point in the postseason, 12 of them with at least one goal against the Avalanche.
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“It’s the identity of this team – our depth,” said DeBoer. “The guys sat out and then came back into the line-up… we had so many contributions from so many guys. How the guys handled it when they were out and then their ability to get back in and make a difference for us it was crucial. Without that, you can’t beat a team like Colorado. We are the sum of our parts. We don’t have the superstar power they have. “
The Golden Knights didn’t need it as guys like Holden, Kolesar and Carrier also scored their first goals of the postseason.
“Dream about playing in games like this,” said Kolesar, one of the first players in the organization to step on the ice at the team’s first training camp in 2017. “I am very happy to continue this journey.”
The Avalanche did what they could to slow Vegas’ journey when speedster Nathan MacKinnon took advantage of an early turnover with Puck racing into the offensive zone and feeding a swept toews that hit Fleury with a sniper for just 23 seconds.
But a strongly heralded crowd of 18,149 was rekindled when Holden fired a shot from the top and through Grubauer’s five-hole, ending the game just 52 seconds later.
Karlsson grabbed a one-timer between Grubauer’s skate and the post for his third goal and seventh point in the series to put Vegas 2-1 ahead. From there the teams swapped goals until the game was all tied at 3 before the Golden Knights took the lead in the final third to end the game.