It was a heartbreaker of a Game 5 for the Vegas Golden Knights.
Denis Gurianov scored the game-winner and the series clincher in Overtime as the Dallas Stars beat the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 in the Western Conference Final to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.
It was a crushing blow for the Golden Knights who were expected to punch their Stanley Cup ticket but, instead, they will now leave The Bubble and head back to Vegas.
It all started so well for the Knights too, with Chandler Stephenson beating Anton Khudobin thanks to a sublime pass from Shea Theodore, before Reilly Smith made it a two-goal game seconds into the third period.
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However, the Golden Knights went 0/3 on the power play and that left the door open for the Stars, who showed why they are now in the Stanley Cup Final after fighting back.
And, with 3:36 on the clock, heartbreak struck the Knights as Denis Gurianov beat Robin Lehner with a hell of a one-timer to send Dallas to the Stanley Cup Final and Vegas home.
Let’s take you through some Sights and Sounds from Game 5 of the Western Conference Final…
Reaves being Reaves
Ryan Reaves was busy doing Ryan Reaves things in Game 5.
That’s all we’re saying because we believe this picture says it all:
Tough Break for the Rookie
Zach Whitecloud has emerged as a key piece of this Golden Knights blueline.
He blossomed under the guidance of Head Coach Peter DeBoer during the regular season, and he was impressive inside The Bubble too.
Whitecloud recorded three points (2 G, 1 A) in 20 postseason games while averaging 16:58 minutes of Average Total Ice Time.
However, the Stanley Cup Playoffs ended in heartbreak for the Golden Knights and for Whitecloud in particular, who was sent to the box for Delay of Game for sending the puck over the boards 2:15 into Overtime.
It led to Dallas going on the power play and Denis Gurianov scoring the game-winner that also clinched the series for the Stars.
It was an incredibly tough ending to what was a strong debut Stanley Cup Playoffs for Whitecloud, who should be even better for this experience.
Feeling of Envy
The Golden Knights got to meet the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl in 2017-18 when they reached the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural year.
Well, they met again on Monday but this time Vegas had to look on with envy as Dallas had their picture taken with the trophy, although they made sure not to touch it and jinx themselves for the Stanley Cup Final.
It is testament to just how far this franchise has come that they see losing in the Western Conference Final as a bitter disappointment, and they will look to use the scenes in the wake of Game 5 as added motivation for the 2020-21 season.
No, we are not confused.
We are just paying homage to a moment of brilliance in Game 5.
Shea Theodore was arguably the best player inside The Bubble for the Golden Knights, and he showed why in the first period.
Noticing that Chandler Stephenson was in position to join the rush, Theodore launched a sublime, pinpoint pass to set Stephenson free beyond the defense and the forward did the rest by beating Anton Khudobin with a slick deke.
It was one hell of a pass from Theodore who is fast establishing himself as one of the best offensive defensemen in the NHL, and it was a play that was consistently made by the Hall of Famer blueliner Scott Niedermayer.
If Theodore continues on this current trajectory then Vegas fans could one day be speaking of Shea Theodore in the same breath as the legendary Niedermayer.
Reilly Smith, along with all of the Golden Knights’ big guns, disappeared throughout this series and that was a big reason why Vegas are now home rather than preparing for the Stanley Cup Final.
However, Smith did deliver a big moment in Game 5 after putting the Golden Knights firmly in the driving seat.
With just 13 seconds played in the final period, Smith took a pass from Paul Stastny to transition out of the zone on an odd-man rush.
With Jonathan Marchessault for company, Smith used his teammate as a decoy to trick Anton Khudobin and instead fired a shot over the glove of the Dallas goalie.
Sadly, it didn’t count for anything.
Anton Khudobin: 34 Saves, 2 GA, .944 SV%
What a postseason this has been for the Russian goalie.
With Ben Bishop Unfit To Play, Khudobin has risen from a backup role to propel the Stars to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 20 years.
Khudobin was sensational in the Western Conference Final and he was the main reason why it will be Dallas competing for a championship and not the Golden Knights.
Brought in because of his ability to push the right buttons to get his teams to the Stanley Cup Final, DeBoer failed on that front with the Golden Knights.
And, from mishandling the controversial goalie situation to refusing to budge from a system and style of play that clearly didn’t work, DeBoer will have to deal with plenty of outside pressure heading into the 2020-21 season.