Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone gave an honest assessment of his play in the third round as he was held without a point in six games against the Montreal Canadiens.
"I got skunked this series," Stone said. "That can't happen. I'm the captain of this team, the leader of this team. I take a lot of responsibility for what just occurred."
Stone, a minus-4 in the series, had one shot in 17:10 of ice time in Vegas' 3-2 overtime loss Thursday as Montreal clinched their trip to the Stanley Cup final. The Golden Knights also reached the third round last season before being eliminated in five games by the Dallas Stars.
"When you get to this point, the teams that win find another level," Golden Knights head coach Peter DeBoer said. "They don't sag. We didn't find another level, and they did. I thought they were opportunistic. They owned the key moments of the series.
"When they got a chance, they stuck it in the net. When they needed a big save, they got a big save. They won the overtime battle. They won the special-teams battle. If you're losing those areas of the game, you're putting yourself in a tough spot."
The Golden Knights tied for the NHL lead with 82 points in the regular season and defeated the Presidents' Trophy-winning Colorado Avalanche in the second round before facing the Canadiens. The expansion franchise has reached the playoffs in each of their first four years and lost in the Stanley Cup final in their inaugural season.
"This is one of the best, if not the best teams I've played on," Alec Martinez said. "To come up short is disappointing. I'm proud of the way the guys battled."
Exempt from the Seattle expansion draft, the Golden Knights have just three pending unrestricted free agents in Martinez, Tomas Nosek and trade deadline addition Mattias Janmark. According to CapFriendly, the team is set to have just over $6 million in cap space this off-season.