Nobody with any type of hockey knowledge had the following sentence coming out of their mouths before the season: the Golden Knights are going to the Stanley Cup Finals. Improbable, but it's true after Sunday afternoon, as they closed out the Winnipeg Jets in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals with a 2-1 win on the road. Ryan Reaves scored the winning goal in the second period, as the Knights became the first expansion team to reach the Finals in their inaugural season since the St. Louis Blues did it in the 1967-68 season. Alex Tuch also found the back of the net for the Knights, while Marc-Andre Fleury continued to get it done between the pipes with 31 saves. The Jets took Game 1 of the series in front of their home crowd, but the Knights won four in a row after facing its first postseason series deficit. Josh Morrissey scored the lone goal for the Jets, who got 30 saves from Connor Hellebuyck, but could not extend the series to a sixth game in Las Vegas. Wininpeg finished the regular season in second place of the President's Trophy race, and got past the Nashville Predators and Minnesota Wild to get out of the Central Division side of the Western Conference playoff picture. The Golden Knights will represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals, and they may know who they'll be matched up against by the end of Monday. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals will play Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Finals series at Capital One Arena on Monday night, with the Lightning leading the series, 3-2.
Warriors Cruise to Series Lead at Home
The Golden State Warriors not only took the series lead on Sunday night, but also made a statement to remind the Houston Rockets just how hard it will be to come out of the Western Conference. Steph Curry had his best game since returning from injury with 35 points, as the Warriors crushed the Rockets, 126-85, for a 2-1 Western Conference Finals lead. Kevin Durant added 25 points in the rout, as the Warriors shot 52 percent from the floor, and outscored the Rockets by 30 points in the second half. Curry drained five three-pointers on the night and went off for 18 points on 7-for-7 shooting in the third quarter alone. Draymond Green also had a productive night with 10 points, 17 rebounds, and six assists, as the Warriors won an NBA-record 16th straight postseason home game, breaking the Chicago Bulls' previous record, which was set from 1990-1991. The blowout win for the Warriors helped them avenge a 22-point loss to the Rockets in Game 2 at the Toyota Center. The Rockets could not build momentum from that win on the road, as James Harden was held to 20 points to lead his team. Chris Paul added a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds, as the two stars combined to shoot just 13-for-32. After leading by 11 at halftime, the Warriors used a 10-0 run in the third quarter to break away for good, and then put up 38 points in the final 12 minutes to pile it on late. That led to some physical play between Green and Trevor Ariza, with some minor shoving after the whistle. Nothing escalated too far, but it could lead to some more intensity for Tuesday's Game 4, which will again be at Oracle Arena.
Cardinals' Rookie Impresses in First Win
The St. Louis Cardinals are known to compete year after year, mainly due to their constant production from their pitching staff. From the looks of Sunday afternoon, it seems as if they have once again added to their rotation, as rookie Jack Flaherty impressed in his first career victory. Flaherty pitched 7.2 innings and struck out 13 batters, as the Cardinals took the series finale from the Philadelphia Phillies, 5-1, at Busch Stadium. Philadelphia only managed two hits and a run off the right-hander, with Rhys Hoskins' sixth home run being the only blemish on his day. Tyler O'Neill gave the rookie some support with a long ball for the Cardinals, who earned the series split with the Phillies over the weekend. Flaherty improved to 1-1 in his ninth start, as he threw a career-high 120 pitches on the day. He was relieved by flame-thrower Jordan Hicks, who got the final four outs to finish things off. While doing that, Hicks threw 11 pitches over 100 mph, including two pitches at 105 mph, and three at 104 mph. Odubel Herrera was one of the Phillies' batters who faced the high heat, as he finished the day 0-for-4, ending his on-base streak at 45 games, dating back to last season. Matt Carpenter was productive for St. Louis with three hits, while Greg Garcia drove in two runs in the win. Flaherty's best stretch saw him retire 10 in a row, as he was called up after starters Adam Wainwright and Carlos Martinez both landed on the disabled list. The Cardinals move on to host an interleague series with their in-state rivals, the Kansas City Royals, beginning on Monday night. The Phillies also begin a home series on Monday against the Atlanta Braves.