Lightning, Golden Knights reach conference finals

Marc-Andre Fleury stood out once again as the Vegas Golden Knights moved ever closer to a Stanley Cup title in their inaugural season. Fleury stopped all 28 shots he faced on Sunday to eliminate the San Jose Sharks and move Vegas into the Western Conference final, where the Golden Knights will face either the Winnipeg Jets, or the Nashville Predators. The Tampa Bay Lightning also advanced on Sunday, defeating the Boston Bruins in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference series.

Fleury has bookended both of Vegas’ playoff series with shutouts. He opened the second round with a 33-save shutout of San Jose, but unlike in the first round when the Los Angeles Kings failed to solve him over four games, the Sharks responded with impressive offensive efforts in Games 2-5, scoring at least three times in each contest, but Fleury shut the door again on Sunday as Jonathan Marchessault and Nate Schmidt provided the necessary scoring and Cody Eakin added an empty-netter.

Vegas is only the third team in NHL history to win two playoff series in its inaugural season, joining the 1967-68 St. Louis Blues, who played in a division made entirely of expansion teams, and the Toronto Arenas in 1917-18, which was the inaugural season of the NHL. The continued success of the Golden Knights is likely a scary prospect for Vegas sportsbooks, most of which started the expansion team at very long odds to win the Stanley Cup.

In the Eastern Conference, the Lightning only needed five games to knock off Boston, which lost four straight after taking Game 1 in lopsided fashion. Tampa Bay was the more dominant team for most of the series, leading the way in shots and hits, while Bruins star Brad Marchand resorted to questionable antics to try to gain an advantage. Marchand was warned by the NHL - and by Boston coach Bruce Cassidy - not to lick any other opponents after he ran his tongue across Ryan Callahan’s face in Game 4.

No longer able to lick, Marchand was ineffective in Sunday’s elimination game, failing to record a shot on goal in over 23 minutes time on ice. Boston scored first but a pair of second-period goals by Brayden Point and J.T. Miller made the difference for the Lightning in the 3-1 win. Tampa Bay now awaits the winner of the series between the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins.