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The Villains Who Have Denied Vegas Golden Knights a Stanley Cup



Vegas Golden Knights

Las Vegas, the entertainment capital of the world…and location of the season six finale for the Vegas Golden Knights.

In the six years since their inception, this is the Golden Knights’ second appearance in the Final. In that time, there have been several villains who played the Grinch and denied the Golden Knights a Stanley Cup championship.

2021 – 2022 – Vegas Golden Knights

Villian: Injuries.

How can the hero of the story also be the villain? Sports enthusiasts refer to this as a “rebuilding year.”

Injuries plagued the team, with key players affected, including captain Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, and starting goaltender Robin Lehner. The team had to make do, which included recalling players from their farm team, the Henderson Silver Knights.

Management also made some notable moves during the offseason. They acquired Jack Eichel, but he didn’t debut until February. They also traded veteran goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner. These trades created a shift in team chemistry, so coaching staff and players had to scramble to find the right game-winning formula.

That “eureka” moment never came, as the Golden Knights failed to qualify for playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

2020 – 2021 – Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens

Villian: Carey Price

Despite a shortened season (and a temporary league restructuring with an all-Canadian division) due to COVID, Vegas made it to the Western Conference Final, where they faced the Montreal Canadiens. They had a strong start in the series and some steam in the tank, but Carey Price proved one heck of an obstacle.

Afterward, Price was impenetrable. He stopped low and high-danger chances. The brick wall in front of the Montreal net was a great swan song for Price, who played just five more NHL games before injuries forced his unofficial retirement.

Beyond goaltending, the Vegas Golden Knights had to contend with Nick Suzuki and Shea Weber. Both had high TOI (Time On Ice) stats, and were consistently buzzing around both Fleury and Lehner, searching for the right times to strike. Their shared ability to dominate the puck in the VGK zone proved to be too much, and they bested the Golden Knights in this series.

2019 – 2020 – Vegas Golden Knights

Villian: COVID

The mental stamina necessary for the 2020 bubble tournament was unlike any athlete had faced before. Locked in a hotel in Edmonton, quarantined from the world, including family, the games were played in empty arenas with players not necessarily at their best.

And the added distractions of the starting goalie.

The team dynamics and chemistry were off. Both Fleury and Lehner were in net interchangeably during regular season, but management and then-head coach Pete DeBoer started the latter at the start of the playoffs. Lehner was a shiny new toy, being six years Fleury’s junior and less expensive. This led to frustration for Fleury and also fueled the scandal that was Allan Walsh’s (now deleted) tweet, which included this cryptic image.

This drawing shows Former Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andrew Fleury stopping a puck while he's speared through the heart by a long silver sword, "DeBoer" is etched on the side, indicating former head coach Pete DeBoer

Photo credit to


This controversy and the pandemic proved to be detrimental distractions for the Golden Knights. They were able to fight their way to the Western Conference Final but lost the series to the Dallas Stars.

2018 – 2019 – The San Jose Sharks and Bad Officiating

Villian; Referees.

The series was won. The Golden Knights were minutes from eliminating the San Jose Sharks in Round One until an awful goal spotted San Jose a five-minute power play.

In a blink, everything changed. This game remains infamous in Vegas Golden Knights lore.

With under 11 minutes to go in Game 7, Vegas’ Cody Eakin cross-checked against Joe Pavelski, who lost his balance and was then checked by another Golden Knight. Pavelski toppled, hitting his head on the ice, causing him to bleed. Referees Eric Furlatt and Dan O’Halloran decided the play warranted a five-minute major penalty.

The Golden Knights led 3-0, then 4:01 later were down 4-3. They allowed an astounding four goals on the major penalty.

The Sharks won in overtime, 5-4.

In the aftermath, Vegas fans created an uproar, renaming that pivotal play as “Not A Major.” Pavelski himself told, “I’ve got no issues with that play. Was it a five-minute major? No. I don’t think it was.” The league ended up agreeing, and Golden Knights general manager George McPhee received an apology via phone call for the controversial officiating. Too little, too late, in the mind of Vegas fans.

Referees Furlatt and O’Halloran (as well as the Golden Knights) did not advance through the playoffs during this season.

2017 – 2018 – Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals

Villian: Lars Eller

This season was the start of Vegas’ fairy tale of winning the Stanley Cup. They fought through a grueling inaugural year, defying all odds to get to the Final. The Misfits became household names.

It seemed an avalanche of destiny and momentum. All that stood between them and Lord Stanley was the Washington Capitals, another team who never won the title.

But the Golden Knights collided with another team of destiny. They had a lead in the third period of Game 5. m

Vegas started the series off strong, winning the first game 6 – 4. However, the Capitals were quick to answer with three consecutive wins. They had well-established powerhouse players, like TJ Oshie, Tom Wilson, and Alexander Ovechkin, all chomping at the bit to have their time to shine.

Ultimately, the series came down to who had more endurance. Vegas battled so hard to get to that point, and they ended up losing their momentum. What they lost, Washington seemingly found.

The end of the Stanley Cup Final almost mirrored the ending of “Rocky.” Fans saw the Golden Knights go the distance and expected a win because the good guys always win. In the end, however, the antagonists remained the legends, but at least the Golden Knights had the chance to say, “Yo Vegas, we did it!”

Present Day

The “villains” in the season six finale are the Florida Panthers. They, too, are vying for their first Stanley Cup win. Will Vegas be able to conquer? Find out Saturday, June 3 at 5 PM PT at T-Mobile Arena.

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