With a shootout looming to determine the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and time ticking away, Alex Tuch scored 4:44 into overtime as the Vegas Golden Knights outlasted the Colorado Avalanche 4-3 to win the round-robin tournament in Edmonton on Saturday.
The Golden Knights, who made a coaching change with the team stuck at No. 7 in the West in January, bringing in Pete DeBoer to replace Gerard Gallant, went 3-0 in the round robin, defeating Dallas and St. Louis before the victory over Colorado. Vegas secured a first-round matchup with the No. 8 Chicago Blackhawks, a team that finished the regular season 12th in the West before upsetting Edmonton in the qualifying round.
Vegas, which advanced to the Stanley Cup Final in 2018, received two goals from Jonathan Marchessault, including one on a penalty shot, as well as another tally from Nicolas Roy, as the Knights completed an undefeated tournament.
“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.”
Goaltender Robin Lehner made 32 saves en route to the win, setting up a unique series against the Blackhawks, who traded Lehner to Vegas before the sport paused in March. Several Blackhawks, a day after eliminating the Oilers in their home rink, watched the Knights’ victory from the stands.
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. 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.”
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.
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. The lead would last less than two minutes before 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.
With the loss, Colorado finished second in the round robin, and it will take on Arizona in the first round.
“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 Associated Press contributed to this report.