Vatrano’s Hat Trick Sparks Ducks Victory Over Vegas in Season-Finale

Vatrano’s Hat Trick Sparks Ducks Victory Over Vegas in Season-Finale
Anaheim Ducks right winger Jakob Silfverberg shoots the puck in his final NHL game in Las Vegas on April 18, 2024. (David Becker/AP Photo)
The Associated Press

LAS VEGAS—Frank Vatrano scored three goals and the Anaheim Ducks ended their season on a high note, defeating the Vegas Golden Knights 4–1 Thursday night.

Vegas’ three-game winning streak ended, and the loss knocked the Golden Knights out of third place in the NHL’s Pacific Division and into the second Western Conference wild-card spot, with the Los Angeles Kings defeating the visiting Chicago Blackhawks 5–4 in overtime.

Defending Stanley Cup champion Vegas will face the top-seeded Dallas Stars in the first round of the playoffs, while the Kings will play the Edmonton Oilers for the third consecutive season.

“Every team that’s left standing is a good hockey team,” Golden Knights center Jack Eichel said. “There’s no easy path to winning. We understand every game’s going to be a battle. I think we should be pretty excited. It’s a great opportunity for our team.”

Vatrano’s goals gave him a career-high 37 for the season. It was his third hat trick this season and the sixth of his career.

Jackson LaCombe had a goal and an assist for the Ducks, who finished their sixth consecutive non-playoff season at 27–50–5 for 59 points, one more than they had last season. Ryan Strome had two assists and goaltender Lukas Dostal made 29 saves.

Heralded Ducks prospect Cutter Gauthier, who completed his career at Boston College in last weekend’s NCAA championship game loss to Denver, played his first NHL game and registered an assist.

“It feels incredible,” Gauthier said of his primary assist on LaCombe’s goal. “I heard Comber calling for it there and I passed it to him. I saw it trickle in there and just very excited, pure joy. It’s something you dream of as a kid.”

Ducks winger Jakob Silfverberg, who had announced his retirement from the NHL and played in his final game after 12 seasons in the league, shook hands with Golden Knights players after the game.

“I enjoyed my time here a lot, not just me but my family,” Silfverberg said. “It’s been 11 amazing years. It’s definitely a team I‘ll be rooting for, and I’ll follow them closely.”

Eichel scored his 31st goal for the Knights, and goalie Adin Hill made 19 stops.

Former Ducks center William Karlsson’s second-period assist for Vegas gave him 60 points this season, the second time he’s reached the mark. He had 78 points in the 2017–18 season.

Karlsson remains the club’s single-season goals leader at 43, with Jonathan Marchessault coming one short despite 13 shots against the Ducks, including seven on goal. Marchessault scored only one goal in his final seven games.

The Knights made a concerted effort to get Marchessault the record, sometimes feeding him the puck when there were better options. He had nine shots in the first period alone, four on goal to match the Ducks’ first-period total. Four other shots were blocked and one missed the net.

After a scoreless first period in which Anaheim didn’t take its first shot on goal until the 10-minute mark, the teams traded power-play goals in the second. Vatrano scored at 4:25, and Eichel at 18:47. That was Vegas’ ninth power-play goal this month, tying the Calgary Flames for most in the NHL.

“We were asleep in the first 10, 12 minutes,” Ducks coach Greg Cronin said. “We didn’t have our legs. They weren’t moving their feet. They weren’t moving the puck. Vegas was. We were very fortunate we weren’t down 2-0 in the first 10 minutes.”

LaCombe and Vatrano scored 29 seconds apart early in the third period to give Anaheim the lead for good. Vatrano’s final goal came with 15 seconds left on an empty-netter, a short-handed strike with the Knights on a 6-on-4 power play.

Ducks defenseman William Lagesson skated in his 100th career game.

By Mark Anderson