There was a bit of a theme to Saturday’s round-robin playoff game with players on both teams atoning for previous mistakes.
It was fitting for the Golden Knights, who used the final two months of the regular season and first week of August to make up for a slow start that cost their coach his job.
Alex Tuch scored his team-leading third goal of the postseason with 15.9 seconds remaining in overtime, lifting the Knights to a 4-3 victory over Colorado at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta.
The Knights finished an undefeated run through the three-game round robin and clinched the top seed in the Western Conference.
They will meet the Blackhawks, who upset Edmonton in the qualifying round, in the quarterfinals. The start date for the best-of-seven series has yet to be announced.
“We came here to take every challenge ahead of us. We did a good job,” Knights left wing Jonathan Marchessault said. “We wanted first seed after the round robin, and we got it done. I think it’s pretty positive. We’re really happy where our game is at as a team.”
Marchessault, who was held without a point in the first two playoff games and took an ill-advised retaliation penalty against St. Louis on Thursday, finished with two goals.
He opened the scoring early in the second period and converted on a penalty shot at 3:02 of the third period to put the Knights ahead 3-2.
But Colorado’s J.T. Compher pounced on a rebound with 1:02 remaining in regulation and tied the score at 3.
In the overtime, Tuch carried the puck from his own zone down the left wing and snapped a shot over the glove of Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer.
“To be able to get that first seed means a lot,” Tuch said. “Personally it’s probably one of my bigger goals in the playoffs. I’m just trying to move forward, trying to continue that push.”
Nicolas Roy added his first career postseason goal, and defenseman Shea Theodore had two assists for the Knights, who won for the 18th time in 25 games under coach Pete DeBoer since he replaced Gerard Gallant on Jan. 15.
Nathan MacKinnon and Joonas Donskoi also scored for Colorado. The Avalanche finished as the No. 2 seed and will meet Arizona in the first round.
The Knights and Colorado cannot meet again until the Western Conference final.
“You want to give yourself the easiest path, and the easiest path for us was to come in here and do what we did, which is win our round-robin games and get the first seed,” DeBoer said.
The Knights were outscored 13-4 in two matchups against the Avalanche during the regular season but proved they can skate with one of the NHL’s fastest teams.
Despite playing without injured left wing Max Pacioretty for the third straight game and struggling to stay out of the penalty box, the Pacific Division champions never trailed.
Robin Lehner, who is competing against Marc-Andre Fleury for the starting goalie job, won for the fifth time in five starts since he was acquired by the Knights and finished with 32 saves.
He turned away former Knights center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare on a partial breakaway with less than six minutes remaining in regulation and also had a fantastic glove stop on Mikko Rantanen in the final minute of the first period during a five-on-three.
The Knights finished 5-for-6 on the penalty kill.
“I saw most of the pucks and (there were a) lot of good blocks,” Lehner said. “Colorado is a very good team. They’re going to get their chances, and they made a good play (on the five-on-three). I was fortunate to get over there.”
After feeling each other out in the first period, MacKinnon gave the Knights a power play early in the second when he was sent off for unsportsmanlike conduct. The Knights cashed in at 1:34 when Theodore’s wrist shot deflected off the shaft of Marchessault’s stick.
MacKinnon, one of three finalist for the Hart Trophy as league MVP, made up for the penalty with Ryan Reaves in the box for roughing.
Cale Makar’s drive went off the crossbar and sailed high in the air. When the pop fly landed in front of Lehner’s crease, chaos ensued and MacKinnon was able to backhand in the loose puck to tie the score at 1.
“In the future we definitely need to be a little bit more disciplined, especially with a power play like Colorado,” Marchessault said. “I thought our game was nice, and we don’t even have (Pacioretty) in the lineup during those (three) games. He’s definitely a big part of our puzzle, and it’s going to be good to see him.”
Golden Knights 5, Dallas 3
Golden Knights 6, St. Louis 4
Golden Knights 4, Colorado 3, OT