DALLAS — William Karlsson had two goals and an assist for the Vegas Golden Knights, who advanced to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2018 with a 6-0 win against the Dallas Stars in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final at American Airlines Center on Monday.
“It’s a great feeling to finally clinch that final spot,” Karlsson said. “A lot of smiles and happiness all around.
“I think [depth] is huge. I think that’s one of our strengths as well, and I think that’s why we’ve gotten this far. If we can have all four lines going every night, we’re going to be a tough team to beat for sure.”
The Golden Knights will play the Florida Panthers, who swept the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final. Game 1 of the Cup Final will be in Las Vegas on Saturday.
“They’re a real fast team. Their goalie’s been playing really well,” Vegas forward Jack Eichel said. “Obviously, they’re playing some of their best hockey right now, too, so they’ve got some good players up front, some high-end talent, and they’re tough to play against. So, we know it’s going to be a heck of a battle, and we’ll be ready to go.”
Adin Hill made 23 saves, and Keegan Kolesar, Michael Amadio, and William Carrier each had a goal and an assist for the Golden Knights, who are the top seed from the West.
“Most definitely our best game of the playoffs, and it came at the right time,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “You never know when it’s going to happen, you always want to keep building. Boy, if we can bottle that going forward, we’ll be a tough team to beat.”
Jake Oettinger made 23 saves for the Stars, who were the No. 2 seed from the Central Division.
“We put [Oettinger] in some tough spots. You can’t ask him to win that game by himself,” Dallas coach Peter DeBoer said. “We asked an awful lot of him (this season). I thought he had a [heck] of a season. He was our backbone all year. That game isn’t on him.
“I feel bad for our group. I feel worse that he ends his season like that because he doesn’t deserve that with how he played this year.”
Stars captain Jamie Benn, who returned from a two-game suspension for cross-checking Mark Stone in Game 3, was minus-2 in 12:36 of ice time.
“Obviously, didn’t want to be in a hole like that,” Benn said. “It’s a great group. [Stinks] we had to go out like that.”
Carrier gave the Golden Knights a 1-0 lead at 3:41 of the first period. After the Stars failed to clear the zone, the puck popped out from below the goal line to Carrier, who waited out Oettinger and lifted a backhand into an open net.
“It’s so tough to close a team,” Carrier said. “They go home and they get that desperation level high. Their bottom six guys played great. They scored big goals for them [in Game 5]. I think our bottom six guys kind of took it personal here and stepped up their game. I think every year you see a team that goes far needs that, they need big goals from their bottom six guys. [Dallas] got it the last couple of games, and obviously tonight we were playing well.”
Karlsson made it 2-0 at 10:25, scoring on a rebound near the left post on a power play.
“We wanted to come out with a better start,” Stars forward Joe Pavelski said. “We go down early, there’s still a lot of belief. We have a lot of understanding there is a lot of game left. Coming into this game, you want to give a little bit more for the crowd, get them in it. You know there’d be momentum coming. We just weren’t able to get that going.”
Kolesar pushed it to 3-0 at 14:00. Skating into the zone on a rush, he sent a bank pass to Carrier, who passed back to Kolesar for a quick shot in front.
“You don’t want to let a team off the mat,” Cassidy said. “We were up 3-0, there was some chatter about that, so we wanted to make sure we took care of business. Once we did get the lead, I thought we did a great job of staying focused on what was in front of us.”
Jonathan Marchessault made it 4-0 at 10:25 of the second period. Ivan Barbashev skated down the left boards and passed to Marchessault, who got a step on Roope Hintz and buried a backhand five-hole on Oettinger.
Karlsson’s second of the game made it 5-0 at 2:06 of the third period. He shot blocker side off a drop pass from Amadio, who stripped the puck from Joel Hanley in the neutral zone.
“I think maybe after Game 3 we did slip a little bit from our game and didn’t play to our strengths,” Karlsson said. “We had a meeting about that before this game. … I think we came out a lot harder. [Carrier’s] line kind of set the tone for that, and I think everyone followed. That’s what we learned. You can’t really drift from your game because they’re good teams this time of year.”
Amadio scored at 12:25 for the 6-0 final.
“This group in here and how much we’ve been through this year, I didn’t think we deserved to go out like we did tonight,” Stars forward Tyler Seguin said. “Hockey’s hard, man. Game 1 (a 4-3 loss in overtime) we didn’t play great, but we probably could have snuck it out. Game 2 (a 3-2 loss in overtime) you play great and they sneak it out. They scored three goals on us in the first period twice in this series (also Game 3, a 4-0 loss). Like I said, give them credit. I’m still proud of this group and how many responses we’ve had throughout the whole year.”
NOTES: Karlsson has scored 10 goals this postseason, the most in Golden Knights history. … Cassidy is the fourth coach in the past 20 years to reach the Stanley Cup Final in his first season with a team, joining Craig Berube (St. Louis Blues in 2019), DeBoer (San Jose Sharks in 2016, New Jersey Devils in 2012) and Mike Babcock (Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2003). … Vegas and Florida will each attempt to win its first Stanley Cup championship. The Golden Knights lost in five games to the Washington Capitals in their inaugural season in 2018. The Panthers were swept by the Colorado Avalanche in their only previous appearance in 1996.