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LAS VEGAS (AP) While the Washington Capitals celebrated their first Stanley Cup title amid strewn sticks and gloves Thursday night http://www.officialkings.com/authentic- ... llo-jersey , the T-Mobile Arena fans rose and gave one more stirring ovation to the bowed, kneeling figures in grey sweaters on the other end of the ice.The Vegas Golden Knights didn’t win the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season. Just being there was a stupendous feat – and their fans quickly reminded them that it will feel even sweeter when the immediate sting of losing subsides.”You come to Las Vegas thinking you’re going to play hockey,” Knights forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare said. ”Instead, you find a home.”After playing a significant role in healing a city scarred by a mass shooting shortly before their regular-season opener, the Knights went farther and accomplished more than any expansion team in modern sports history. Vegas blew past the NHL expansion records for victories (51) and points (109) while winning the Pacific Division, and the upstarts then cut a swath through the Western Conference playoffs with 12 wins in 15 games.About six months later than even their most optimistic new fans could have reasonably expected, the Golden Knights finally ran into an obstacle they couldn’t surmount.”When you’re that close, it hurts. It hurts a lot,” defenseman Luca Sbisa said Friday, emotion evident in his voice. ”Right now, I’m speechless. But we can be proud of what we did.”When owner Bill Foley proposed a six-year timetable for the Knights’ first Stanley Cup title, he was gently laughed off in the hockey world. Now that his team almost beat his projection by five years, general manager George McPhee is in charge of figuring out another daunting task.What in the world will Vegas do for an encore?Keeping the core of the NHL’s 31st franchise intact will be challenging, but definitely possible. The Knights also must figure out what pieces to add to a franchise that’s already looking like a desirable destination for veteran players who like warm weather and lots of winning.The Knights’ most prominent unrestricted free agents are Sbisa and forwards James Neal and David Perron. They have several key restricted free agents, including goal-scoring star William Karlsson and defenseman Shea Theodore.Although they don’t get another expansion draft, they’ve also got leftover assets from last summer to make moves for veteran players, both in free agency and in trades. McPhee has already begun work, but he said it’s likely the Knights won’t make major changes.After all, they’ve got a pretty good thing going.”Sometimes a great story, book or movie doesn’t have a perfect ending,” McPhee said. ”But it’s still a great story.”Here are more things to know about the Knights and their upcoming offseason:LONG TERM: Although McPhee took his job with a stated goal to build a foundation, the Golden Knights’ immediate success demonstrated that the future could be now. McPhee might not need to choose between the two courses of action, as he reiterated during his immediate comments Friday while the players packed up their lockers for the summer. McPhee should have the salary cap room and financial resources to make almost any personnel decision, and he also has a stockpile of two first-round picks and six second-round picks in the next three drafts.FREE-AGENT FORWARDS: Neal has been a dependable NHL goal-scorer for a decade, and he scored 25 goals for the Knights while serving as a valuable veteran leader. McPhee seems eager to sign Neal, and Neal repeatedly said Friday that he wants to be back. A deal seems probable. The Knights face a tougher decision on Perron, who set a career high with 66 points in the regular season. He didn’t score a goal between March 4 and Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final, getting relegated to a depth line. Perron revealed Friday that in-season talks with the Knights didn’t result in a new contract. ”I had a good year,” Perron said. ”I deserve what I deserve, but I’m willing to work with them to make sure I stay here.”PRECIOUS FLOWER: Despite a middling Final, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was the backbone of Vegas’ success with 29 wins and a .927 save percentage in the regular season before three solid postseason rounds. He’s still a year away from unrestricted free agency, and if the three-time NHL champ gets his way, he’ll finish his career in Nevada. ”A couple of years ago, I was told I was getting too old to play,” Fleury said. ”I still love it. Vegas gave me an opportunity to continue doing what I love and I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else.”KARLSSON’S WORTH: Karlsson is one of McPhee’s biggest assets going into the offseason, and also one of the GM’s biggest challenges. The former Ducks and Blue Jackets prospect had never scored 10 goals in an NHL season before Columbus asked the Knights to pick him in the expansion draft. The Swede promptly scored 43 goals in Vegas and established himself as an elite talent. He made $1 million in the just-completed season, and he clearly deserves a fat raise. Given his unusual accomplishments and unclear market value, Karlsson also seems a possible candidate for another team to sign to an offer sheet, although that strategy is rarely used in the modern NHL.NO PARADE: Despite their record-setting season, the Golden Knights say they won’t participate in any postseason parade or celebration after falling short of the Cup. Clark County and the Las Vegas city government had discussed throwing a parade even if the Knights didn’t win Womens Anze Kopitar Jersey , but it would have been a potential source of embarrassment in traditional hockey circles.—AP freelance writer W.G. Ramirez in Las Vegas contributed to this report.— ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) The Minnesota Wild made sure the bad news didn’t defeat them.Their season-ending road trip sure feels a little lighter now, with a spot in the playoffs secure.Zach Parise scored twice and Devan Dubnyk made 22 saves to blank his original team, pushing the Wild past the Edmonton Oilers 3-0 on Monday night.”I hope it makes them feel good about themselves,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. ”I thought our defense was good.”With 98 points, matching the fourth-most in franchise history, the Wild did their part. Then Los Angeles chipped in with a victory about 2 1/2 hours later over Colorado that took the pressure off Minnesota’s last three games, at Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose. The Wild are nearly locked into third place in the Central Division and a first-round matchup with Winnipeg.”I don’t know how all this math works out,” Boudreau said, before leaving the arena to watch the conclusion of the Avalanche-Kings game at home. ”I just wake up in the morning and hope to see an `X’ by the name.”Playing for the first time in nearly three years without stalwart defenseman Ryan Suter, the Wild wrapped up their home schedule with a staggering 21-3 shots advantage in the third period. Joel Eriksson Ek added an empty-net goal as the Wild finished 27-6-8 at Xcel Energy Center, the second-best home record in the league.With rookies Nick Seeler and Carson Soucy, in his NHL debut no less, playing key roles on the blue line, the Wild put together a postseason-caliber performance.”You need different people to step up and do important things, and that’s going to be the case for us,” Dubnyk said. ”That was a good look.”Cam Talbot made 37 saves for the Oilers, who lost their fifth straight game and ensured a sub-80-point finish for the eighth time in the last nine years.”The finish line is non-rewarding. You fall behind, you feel like you don’t get a break, you miss a net or something like that, it takes a little bit more out of you,” coach Todd McLellan said. ”We should be more resilient. We’re not right now.”Parise has been a big part of the push. The Wild are 24-9-7 with him in the lineup, after he missed the first 39 games of the season recovering from back surgery. Playing next to Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund has given him a clear boost.”As a group, we’re meshing really well together,” Parise said.The Wild scored the first goal for the first time in seven games, when Parise snagged a bouncing puck at his own blue line that Oilers defenseman Adam Larsson was struggling to control with his skates and broke loose on an unabated path to the net. He snapped a shot though Talbot’s pads just 3:33 into the contest.Dubnyk then went to work on his fifth shutout of the season, making some difficult saves, including a denial of NHL points leader Connor McDavid’s attempt with his right leg.Parise provided some padding when he swooped into position to knock in a rebound of Jonas Brodin’s attempt before the midpoint of the second period.Making the 400th start of his NHL career against the club that drafted him in the first round in 2004, Dubnyk recorded his 133rd win for the Wild since they acquired him in a trade on Jan. 14, 2015. No goalie in the league has played in more games (230) or pitched more shutouts (20) since then.Edmonton won the first two meetings with Minnesota this season, with McDavid registering two goals and two assists, but after the breakthrough in 2016-17 the Oilers have tumbled back down the Western Conference standings. They’re 17-23-4 since the Christmas break.Talbot was pulled at Calgary on Saturday night after only 11 1/2 minutes, after allowing three goals on seven shots, but McLellan stuck with him and was rewarded with his highest save total in nine appearances since he stopped 40 shots at Florida on March 17.”We definitely had opportunities to make this a good road trip,” said left wing Milan Lucic, ”but we didn’t do it in Vancouver when we had a real good start the way that we did. We didn’t do it in Calgary and once again here.”NOTES: Parise has at least one point in seven straight games and 12 goals over his last 19 games, the third-most in the league since March 1. … Oilers defensemen Andrej Sekera and Yohann Auvitu were each injured in the second period and didn’t return. … With Suter’s absence, center Eric Staal became the Wild’s new ironman by playing in his 161st consecutive contest. He has not missed a game since joining the team prior to last season.UP NEXTOilers: Host Vegas on Thursday.Wild: Play at Anaheim on Wednesday.—
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