Max Pacioretty returned after a 12-game absence to score the game-winning goal and Mattias Janmark registered his first career hat trick to pace the offence as the Vegas Golden Knights advance, beating the Minnesota Wild 6-2 in Game Seven Friday night.
Janmark came to the Golden Knights as a trade deadline acquisition and has played very well for the team, but hasn’t been finding the net on a regular basis. Tonight, he exploded for three goals and was a major difference-maker for the VGK.
“I think in the playoffs, (goals) count double,” said Janmark.
For the record, Janmark’s Game Seven hat trick was just the eighth in NHL playoff history. For Vegas, getting three goals from Janmark was worth its weight in gold.
“He was huge tonight,” said Pacioretty about Janmark. “Everyone was. We felt unbeatable.”
Indeed, getting Max Pacioretty back into the lineup redistributed the scoring as Alex Tuch moved back to the wing on the third line. Coming into the game Tuch was second on the team in playoff goal-scoring, and his presence with Janmark and Nicolas Roy was immediately evident. It allowed Vegas to roll lines with confidence, and when that third unit started scoring it really took the weight off everyone’s shoulders.
Plus reuniting the top line of Pacioretty with Mark Stone and Chandler Stephenson always leads to danger for opposing defenses. When Pacioretty one-timed the puck into the net at 7:44 of the second period to break a 2-2 tie, it was the moment the balance of power went back to Vegas for the final time in the series. The Golden Knights never trailed in the game, and the Wild never tied it up again.
“Just writing his name on the board in the lineup gave the team a lift,” said head coach Pete DeBoer. “It was critical that we got him back tonight. It changed everything. It changed our confidence to score.” DeBoer also mentioned getting the lines back together as before Pacioretty’s injury, and we saw plenty of evidence as to why that was critical, too.
Scoring consistency has been a bugaboo for this Golden Knights team reaching back through its playoff history, but thankfully Friday night was not one of those nights. Vegas finally seemed to tire out the Wild by relentlessly attacking them, especially once they went down to five defensemen after losing Jonas Brodin early in the game. When the Wild did push, Marc-Andre Fleury and the Golden Knights answered the bell.
It was just about as perfect a game as you could ask out of the Vegas Golden Knights. Now they’re going to have to duplicate it as they prepare for the Colorado Avalanche coming up starting Sunday for Game One in Denver.