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Saturday, Aug 18, 2018
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Expansion Vegas advances to Stanley Cup final

WINNIPEG — The Vegas Golden Knights are going to the Stanley Cup final — with a chip on their shoulder.

"Everybody on this team has something to prove," forward Ryan Reaves said. "We call ourselves 'The Golden Misfits' for a reason. We're doing a good job of proving everybody wrong."

Reaves scored the winning goal, Marc-Andre Fleury made 31 saves and the Golden Knights beat the Jets 2-1 on Sunday to wrap up the Western Conference final in five games.

"It's insane," said defenseman Deryk Engelland, who grabbed the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl after the final buzzer to celebrate with his teammates. "Your goal is always to make the playoffs. But if I were to guess (a few months ago) I would be sitting here doing this right now, you would be a little skeptical at the time."

Engelland touched the trophy — usually a no-no for NHL teams; you touch only the Cup, is the superstition — at the urging of Fleury, who reminded him that Penguins captain Sidney Crosby touched the conference trophy each time before Pittsburgh won its last three Cups, in 2009, '16 and '17. Fleury was on each of those teams.

Vegas is the second first-year expansion team in the NHL/NBA/NFL/MLB since 1960 to get to a league final. The NHL's 1968 St. Louis Blues were the first, when the league's six initial expansion teams were put alone in the West.

Alex Tuch also scored for the Knights. They lost Game 1 in Winnipeg before winning four straight.

"It was their time," Winnipeg captain Blake Wheeler said. "They're just playing really well."

Vegas will meet the Lightning  or Capitals in the final. Tampa Bay leads the East final 3-2, with Game 6 on Monday night in Washington.

The Knights, whose jaw-dropping inaugural 109-point campaign included the Pacific Division title, swept the Kings in the first round and knocked out the Sharks in six games in the second.

"All those records and everything, it doesn't mean anything if you're not the last team standing," Vegas and former Lightning center Jonathan Marchessault said. "I think we have a lot of gas left."

Josh Morrissey scored for the Jets, and Connor Hellebuyck made 30 saves.

"It's very difficult to find that positive feeling at this moment," Jets coach Paul Maurice said.

Reaves, acquired from Pittsburgh before to the trade deadline in February, snapped a 1-1 tie with 6:39 left in the second period when he tipped Luca Sbisa's point shot past Hellebuyck. Reeves' last goal before Sunday came 31/2 months ago while with Pittsburgh.

"The guys that weren't playing, myself included, we stayed ready," Reaves said. "We had fun while we were doing it, but we worked hard so when we were called upon, we were ready to go."

Fleury stopped 151 of 161 shots in the series and allowed just six goals the rest of the way after giving up four in the opener.

"Everybody's stepping up at different times," Fleury said.

The Jets had the NHL's second-best record with 114 points in the regular season. They advanced to the first conference final in the city's history with a five-game victory over the Wild in the opening round before topping the Presidents' Trophy-winning Predators in Game 7 on the road in the second.

"It's disappointing when you put so much effort into it and the result just isn't there. It's hard to swallow." center Mathieu Perreault said.

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