(Reuters) - Lady Luck is everything in Las Vegas and the Golden Knights will be hoping she is back riding with them as they fly home to face the Washington Capitals in a must win Game Five of the Stanley Cup Finals on Thursday.
Following three straight defeats, including a 6-2 Game Four thrashing on Monday, the Golden Knights limp home trailing the best-of-seven series 3-1 and the clock about to strike midnight on what has been a fairytale inaugural season.
Coming from a city that was built on luck the Golden Knights felt like they had none of it in a Game Four clash they dominated for long stretches, outshooting the Capitals 30-23.
Hit posts, missed wide open nets and a goaltender with a hot hand all conspired to leave the Golden Knights on the brink and the Capitals in position to hit the Stanley Cup jackpot with one more victory.
“I thought last night’s game we played real hard, we played real well,” said Vegas coach Gerard Gallant on Tuesday as his team prepared to return home. “Probably with a couple of breaks, we could have been up 2-0 early in that first period.
“First 10 minutes, I thought we played well. We hit two goal posts. (Braden) Holtby made a couple of good saves. We missed an open net.
“That’s hockey. I don’t know what to tell you.”
The odds say the Golden Knights are now a Stanley Cup longshot.
Only once in 33 tries has a team with a 3-1 series lead failed to hoist the Cup and that was in 1942 when the Detroit Red Wings blew a 3-0 advantage to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
But the expansion Golden Knights are a team that have defied the odds right from the beginning, putting themselves in position to become the first franchise in one of North America’s major sport leagues to claim a championship in their first year of operation.
Back on home ice the Golden Knights will be a tough out for the Capitals who are also seeking their first Stanley Cup.
In three series before reaching the Finals, Vegas lost only once at home — to the San Jose Sharks in the second round.
Their only other loss was in Game Two of the Finals which provided the starting point for Capitals three-match winning streak.
“We’re going to play in our building. The pressure’s off us,” said Gallant. “We’re going to work hard and have some fun. We’ll see what happens.
“Let’s face it. We started the season, and there was no expectation for our hockey club.
“Did the expectations change going into the playoffs? Sure they did because we had a great regular season and won the Pacific Division.
“Again, it was about coming to play and enjoying our time and working hard and giving ourselves a chance to win.”
Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Toby Davis