Golden Knights first NHL franchise to sweep playoff series in inaugural season

LOS ANGELES -- One year ago, the Vegas Golden Knights had no players on their roster, and Gerard Gallant was four days into his new job as the first head coach of the expansion team.

On Tuesday, Vegas became the first franchise in NHL history to sweep a postseason series in its inaugural season when it defeated the Los Angeles Kings 1-0.

The Golden Knights will face the winner of the San Jose Sharks-Anaheim Ducks series in the next round. San Jose leads the series 3-0.

It already has been a historic season for the Golden Knights, after they took the Pacific Division to become the first modern-era expansion team in the NHL, NBA, NFL or MLB to win its division in its inaugural season, excluding mergers and all-expansion divisions.

The Golden Knights are now continuing to rewrite the record books in the postseason. With Tuesday's sweep, they became just the third team in the NHL, NBA or MLB to complete a four-game sweep in its first playoff series. The Pittsburgh Penguins did so in 1970 against the Oakland Seals, and MLB's Boston Braves pulled off the feat in 1914 against the Philadelphia Athletics.

A big reason for Vegas' success this season and in the playoffs so far has been the play of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who was selected by Vegas in the expansion draft after he helped the Penguins win the Stanley Cup three times. Fleury now has 66 career postseason victories, and he passed Dominik Hasek (65) for 11th in NHL history among goaltenders. Tuesday's effort was Fleury's 12th career postseason shutout, tied with Terry Sawchuk for 10th-most in NHL history.

"You guys remind us or tell us about those records, but it's not something that we talk about or shoot for," Fleury said. "All season long, I didn't know any records about expansion teams. We just do what a regular team would. We just play the game and try to win. That's it."

Few expected much from Vegas coming into this season. Many had the Golden Knights pegged as the worst team in the league following the expansion draft that netted them the likes of Fleury, James Neal, Jonathan Marchessault, Deryk Engelland, David Perron, William Karlsson, Nate Schmidt, Erik Haula, Cody Eakin, William Carrier and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.

The star and the face of the franchise was always going to be Fleury, but no one thought he would become the catalyst for another Stanley Cup contender so soon in the process.

"He had experience winning three Stanley Cups being with the Pittsburgh Penguins all those years. We knew when we got him we got a superstar goaltender. We knew that," Gallant said. "He has carried our team a lot. He makes our team better and confident, and it all started with the first 10 games of the season, when we were 8-2. He's a big part of our group."

The Golden Knights swept the Kings despite scoring seven total goals in the series and by allowing only three goals from Los Angeles. Vegas' seven goals are two fewer than any other team has scored in a best-of-seven sweep in NHL history.

"It feels great," Marchessault said. "All of us, we came in with a chip on our shoulder, and we're just looking at the next game ahead of us. When we play right away, I think we can go far, but we cannot look too far right now. We've got to look at the next game and be able to cash in the rest that we're going to have here and be ready when the second round starts."

The game-winning goal on Tuesday came from Brayden McNabb, who played the previous three seasons for the Kings before being selected by Vegas in the expansion draft. It was McNabb's first postseason goal.

"I'm not a huge offensive guy, but to get a goal and get our team going felt pretty good. I was just happy to get the team going," he said.

As Vegas prepared to leave Staples Center after the franchise's first playoff series win and sweep Tuesday night, Gallant couldn't help but recall the incredible journey of his first year as the team's first head coach.

"It's unreal," Gallant said. "When you think back to early October when the season started, we were thinking about competing and playing hard, and now all of a sudden, we're moving on to the second round of the playoffs. We're playing good hockey, and we got experienced guys and a good hockey team, so we're pretty proud of it and real happy.

"We'll have a week off here to get ready for the next one. It's awesome. It's been a great feeling."