Hutchinson and fellow netminder

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    • Hutchinson and fellow netminder

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      SAN JOSE Thomas Hickey Jersey Womens , Calif. (AP) Shortly after the San Jose Sharks were denied by the iron for the fourth time of the night, Marc-Andre Fleury rubbed the goal post to thank it for his good fortune.There’s something magical about the ride the expansion Vegas Golden Knights have been on all season and now it’s going all the way to the Western Conference Final.Fleury made 28 saves in his fourth shutout of the playoffs and the Golden Knights have made it to the NHL’s final four in their inaugural season after beating the San Jose Sharks 3-0 in Game 6 of their second-round series Sunday.”It was maybe a little bit of a shock, but I’m proud of our team, our organization, the way they did things here,” Fleury said. ”I’m proud to be where we are right now.”Fleury, who was part of three Stanley Cup-winning teams in Pittsburgh, is a main reason for the success. He allowed just three goals in a first-round sweep against Los Angeles, posted shutouts in Games 1 and 6 against the Sharks and was also spectacular in an overtime win in Game 3.He had plenty of help from a crew of castoffs who have come together in Vegas to form a team that has a legitimate shot at a championship. Vegas next will play either Winnipeg or Nashville in the Western Conference Final. The Jets lead that series 3-2 heading into Game 6 on Monday night.”We deserve to be here,” coach Gerard Gallant said. ”We’re a good team, we play hard and we played well all season long. The two teams we played were very good hockey teams and we were very evenly matched with those teams.”Jonathan Marchessault opened the scoring, Nate Schmidt added an insurance goal that was only detectable by replay and Cody Eakin sealed it with an empty-netter to help Vegas become just the third team in NHL history to win multiple series in its first season.The Toronto Arenas won the Stanley Cup in the first postseason in league history in 1918 and St. Louis won two rounds to win the all-expansion West Division in 1968.The Sharks had numerous opportunities all night but were thwarted by a couple of shots that hit the iron, some acrobatic saves from Fleury and other chances that trickled just wide. This marked the fourth straight postseason for the Sharks that ended with a loss on home ice.”It’s very disappointing, you get this far and lose, it’s disappointing John Tavares Jersey ,” Sharks forward Logan Couture said. ””It’s extra disappointing when you don’t play the way that you know that you’re capable of. … That’s something that’s very difficult to take.”The Golden Knights took control of this game with some good fortune in the second period. It started when usually reliable Marc-Edouard Vlasic turned the puck over in his own zone. Reilly Smith took control near the blue line and found Marchessault alone in front for a goal that trickled between Martin Jones‘ pads.The Golden Knights then added to the lead after an icing by Brent Burns led to an offensive zone faceoff. David Perron beat Tierney on the draw and Schmidt took a shot that appeared to deflect off the post and out.Play went on for 25 more seconds before the buzzer rang, with the situation room in Toronto calling for a video review. That quickly showed that the puck bounced off the post, off a piece equipment inside the net and out.Vegas then had a delayed celebration for the goal that made it 2-0.”I had no idea,” Schmidt said. ”I’d never seen something like that happen where they blew the play dead, but when I was skating back to the bench and all the guys were yelling, `It’s in.”’That was the type of bounce the Sharks didn’t get early in the game when they hit the post or crossbar three times in the opening period and then again in the third when they tried to cut into Vegas’ lead.They also had several other chances that either Fleury turned aside with acrobatic saves, trickled just wide or they were unable to get a clean shot, like a rebound Couture whiffed on from the slot in the first period with an open net.”It’s a fine line,” coach Peter DeBoer said. ”I think we had a couple of those that didn’t go in. That’s hockey. But Vegas deserves to be moving on. They played great. They finished the chances when they needed to and got saves when they needed to.”NOTES: Jones made 30 saves. … Vegas F William Carrier was scratched with a lower-body injury and replaced by Ryan Reaves, who played his first game this postseason.— Taylor Hall had just scored two more goals in another big New Jersey Devils victory when his general manager asked him a simple question.”I said, `Taylor, what’d you get tonight?”’ Ray Shero recalled. ”He goes, `We got two points is what we got.’ He had a smile on his face. And I knew he was not going to say two goals. I knew it. We got two points.”That’s what Shero wanted to hear from the player most responsible for New Jersey’s turnaround from lottery afterthought to playoff contender. Hall is without a doubt the Devils’ most valuable player but he is one of about a dozen candidates for the overall NHL honor. The race for the Hart Trophy is one of the most crowded, convoluted and subjective in decades.An MVP case can be made for Hall, Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon Authentic Jordan Eberle Jersey , Los Angeles‘ Anze Kopitar, Washington’s Alex Ovechkin, Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux, Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin, Boston’s Brad Marchand, Winnipeg’s Blake Wheeler, Nashville’s Pekka Rinne and Edmonton’s Connor McDavid. The award is given to ”the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team.”Reigning Hart winner McDavid leads the league in points and should take home the player-voted Ted Lindsay Award as most outstanding player, but the Oilers have long been out of playoff race, hurting his candidacy to some extent and showing how valuable the other contenders are.Shero said matter-of-factly the Devils ”wouldn’t be in the race” without Hall. The same can be said for the Avalanche without MacKinnon, the Capitals without Ovechkin and the Flyers without Giroux.”Offensively, he’s such a big part of how we generate goals,” Ovechkin teammate T.J. Oshie said. ”Whether he’s scoring them or not, when he’s on the ice, he’s a concern for the other team. Where we’d be at? I don’t know. I’m not sure.”Washington won the Metropolitan Division for the third consecutive year thanks in large part to Ovechkin after losing Marcus Johansson Josh Bailey Jersey , Justin Williams, Daniel Winnik, Nate Schmidt, Karl Alzner and Kevin Shattenkirk from a group that captured the Presidents’ Trophy last season. Ovechkin averages 20 minutes a night, has scored 18.7 percent of the Capitals’ goals and leads the league with 46 while not missing a single game.Kopitar is another ironman who leads all NHL forwards in ice time, is fifth with 91 points and has the Kings on their way back to the playoffs. GM Rob Blake said Kopitar means ”pretty much everything” to Los Angeles, particularly because the two-way star has done it all most of the season without No. 2 center Jeff Carter.”When I look at that MVP race and importance to a team, I think Kopi’s head and shoulders above everybody: to do what he’s had to do without the advantage of having Carter come back on the ice after,” Blake said. ”He had to go with Nick Shore and Adrian Kempe on the ice every shift after. He leads forwards in minutes. His defensive stats and some of the advanced stats show the commitment that he’s had, and it’s from day one.”Two-way play extends to Giroux, who has put Philadelphia on his back at times. Giroux has a career-high 97 points – trailing only McDavid and Kucherov – has won 58.6 percent of faceoffs and run the power play and played the penalty kill for a team that has needed to get wins from four different goaltenders.”When you talk about that type of an award there’s a lot more to it and G does a heck of a lot more for this hockey team than just score points,” coach Dave Hakstol said. ”And believe me it’s hard to score points in this league, so I’m not downplaying that. I’m telling you how important a lot of the other things he provides are to our hockey team.”MacKinnon has provided a spark with 38 goals and 56 assists for the Avalanche, who are still fighting to make the playoffs.”He’s a threat to shoot, threat to take pucks to the net Brady Skjei Jersey , delay and find people,” coach Jared Bednar said. ”He’s got a little bit more change of speed and change of gears on his attack this year.”Given the success of the Lightning, Bruins, Penguins, Predators and Jets, it’s hard to discount Kucherov, Stamkos, Marchand, Malkin, Rinne and Wheeler. Even Vegas’ William Karlsson or Columbus’ Artemi Panarin could get some consideration.While Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff thinks Wheeler has shown his value beyond his league-tying 67 assists, he knows nothing about the Hart is a slam dunk.”It speaks volumes to the league and to the importance these players have on their team,” Cheveldayoff said.—AP Sports Writer Pat Graham in Denver contributed.—