EDMONTON, Alberta (AP)Alex Tuch scored 4:44 into overtime, Jonathan Marchessault had two goals and the Vegas Golden Knights beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-3 on Saturday to earn the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
The Golden Knights will face Chicago in the first round of the playoffs. The second-seeded Avs take on Arizona.
”We came here to take care of every challenge ahead of us. We did a good job,” Marchessault said. ”We wanted the first seed after the round robin and we got it done. So I think it’s pretty positive. We’re really happy where our game is at as a team.”
Tuch scored the winner on a shot over the shoulder of Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer. The Avalanche tied the game with 1:02 left in regulation when J.T. Compher poked in the puck.
Marchessault scored in the second period and again early in the third when he was pulled down by Avalanche defenseman Ryan Graves on a breakaway. Awarded a penalty shot, Marchessault beat Grubauer to the glove side.
Nicolas Roy also scored for the Golden Knights, who finished 3-0 in the playoff seeding round between the top four teams. Colorado wound up 2-0-1.
It was Tuch’s third goal in round-robin play.
”Feels pretty good,” Tuch said. ”Honestly it was a big goal to get the first seed. I didn’t care who scored it as long as we did.”
Robin Lehner finished with 32 saves in starting over Marc-Andre Fleury. Lehner was acquired in a trade with the Blackhawks in February.
Now he gets to face them in the postseason.
”It’s going to be fun,” Lehner said. ”They’re a very good hockey team.”
Joonas Donskoi and Nathan MacKinnon scored for the Avalanche. Grubauer was in net over Pavel Francouz, who stopped 27 shots in a shutout win over Dallas on Wednesday. The veteran Grubauer was solid in saving 22 shots.
Colorado’s Pierre-Edouard Bellemare had a breakaway chance late in the third against his former team, only to send the shot high.
”We’re talking like we lost and that our game was poor. I don’t see it that way. I don’t see it that way at all,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. ”If we were expecting this thing to be easy, we’re in the wrong tournament. This is going to be work. That’s a real good hockey team. I’m not really that disappointed.”
The intensity was raised to another level in a second period that featured four goals. The scoring spree got started when Marchessault tipped a power-play shot past Grubauer. MacKinnon was in the penalty box for an unsportsmanlike call after voicing his displeasure over an icing call.
MacKinnon, a candidate for the league’s MVP honors along with the Lady Byng Trophy, atoned for losing his cool by tying the game with a spinning, backhanded shot on the power play.
Vegas jumped in front again when Roy pounded in a shot with heavy traffic in front of the net. It would last less than two minutes as Donskoi tied it up.
Colorado had a golden opportunity in the first period during an extended 5-on-3 power play. The best scoring chance was by Mikko Rantanen, but his shot down low was plucked out of the air by the glove of Lehner.
”I was fortunate to get over there,” Lehner said.
The Twitter accounts for both sides were certainly entertaining leading into the game. The Vegas crew sent: ”Rock Paper Scissors for the No. 1 seed???”
The Avalanche side responded: ”You guys just love to gamble don’t ya?”
NOTES: Vegas F Max Pacioretty is getting closer to a return after suffering a minor injury during training camp before heading to Edmonton. How close? ”Really close,” coach Peter DeBoer said. ”That’s all I can tell you.” … Golden Knights D Shea Theodore had two assists. … Avs F Nazem Kadri and Rantanen each had two assists.
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