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Chandler Stephenson

Lindsey Wasson / Associated Press

Vegas Golden Knights center Chandler Stephenson (20) handles the puck in front of Seattle Kraken center Morgan Geekie (67) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, April 13, 2023, in Seattle.

For the third time in six seasons, the Golden Knights are the top team in the Pacific Division.

And for the first time ever, the road to the Stanley Cup Final in the Western Conference goes through Las Vegas.

Laurent Brossoit made 31 saves, and the Golden Knights defeated the Seattle Kraken 3-1 at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle on Thursday to clinch their third division title in team history.

The victory also clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference for the Golden Knights. They will play the Winnipeg Jets in the first round when the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin Monday.

Times and schedule will later be determined.

The Golden Knights’ playoff fate was already halfway determined during the first intermission when the Edmonton Oilers won 5-2 against the San Jose Sharks. The Oilers needed a Vegas loss in regulation to clinch the division and the conference.

Instead, the Oilers will have home-ice advantage in a first-round rematch with the Los Angeles Kings. Edmonton won in seven games last season.

Reilly Smith and Alec Martinez scored for Vegas, which set a franchise record 111 points this season and tied the team record of 51 wins (51-22-9). The Golden Knights went 51-24-7 in their inaugural season when they went to the Stanley Cup Final.

The Kraken dominated play in the opening 20 minutes with relentless offensive zone pressure, and taking away the middle of the ice for the Golden Knights whenever they attempted to get through the neutral zone.

Vegas nearly the first 10 minutes without a shot, but got on the board first when Kraken defenseman Vince Dunn’s pass behind the net deflected off Smith’s skate and trickled by Grubauer for a 1-0 lead at 9:56.

Seattle, which entered Thursday leading the league with 277 goals at 5-on-5, responded at 16:20 when Jaden Schwartz beat Brossoit short side from the left circle to tie it 1-1.

In a game where the Golden Knights were already the benefit of a fortuitous bounce, the only thing better than that would have been a net-front goal by a defenseman who had two goals entering the game.

That’s what happened when Martinez scored on a delayed penalty at 12:37 of the second period to take a 2-1 lead.

If there was any lingering thought on who should start Game 1 next week, Brossoit officially shut the door on that conversation. The 30-year-old backup goalie, coming off offseason hip surgery, went 7-0-3 in 10 starts.

He’ll now get rewarded with a playoff series against his former team. Brossoit spent three seasons as the backup to Connor Hellebuyck in Winnipeg before signing a two-year contract with the Golden Knights in July 2021.

This is a developing story. Check back later for updates.

Article written by #LasVegasSun


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