SEATTLE — Alec Martinez broke a tie midway through the second period and the Vegas Golden Knights won their fourth Pacific Division title with a 3-1 victory over the Seattle Kraken in the regular-season finale Thursday night.
Vegas finished 51-22-9 with 111 points, tying the franchise record for victories and holding off the late surge from Edmonton to win the division title and clinch home-ice advantage in the Western Conference.
Vegas will face Winnipeg in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Martinez’s goal at 12:37 of the second period came during a delayed penalty against Seattle. Martinez swatted a rebound past Seattle goalie Philipp Grubauer for his third goal of the season and undoubtedly the most important.
Reilly Smith also scored for Vegas on what technically was its first shot of the game but didn’t touch his stick blade. Vince Dunn’s pass from behind the Seattle goal bounced off Smith’s skate and slipped past Grubauer. The goal came nearly 10 minutes into the first period.
Chandler Stephenson added an empty-net goal, deflecting the puck from his own zone with 38 seconds left.
Jaden Schwartz scored his 21st of the season for Seattle’s only goal on a night the Kraken dominated chances but couldn’t convert. Matty Beniers and Adam Larsson both hit posts and Daniel Sprong was stuffed on a breakaway by Laurent Brossoit, who made 31 saves.
Seattle (46-28-8, 100 points) entered the finale still with an outside shot of catching Los Angeles and finishing third in the Pacific Division. But the Kings held up their end beating Anaheim and the Kraken had to settle for the top wild card berth in the Western Conference.
Seattle will have to wait until Friday night to learn its playoff opponent. The Kraken will face either Colorado or Dallas depending on the outcome of Friday’s game between the Avalanche and Predators in Nashville.
MR. 82 AGAIN
Phil Kessel appeared in his 1,064th consecutive game and played in 82 games for the 11th time in his career.
Brayden McNabb and William Karlsson also appeared in all 82 games this season for Vegas. Ivan Barbashev also appeared in his 82nd game but the first 59 of those came with St. Louis.
Larsson was one of five players to appear in all 82 games for the Kraken and is the only one to play in every game in the first two seasons of the franchise. Will Borgen, Jordan Eberle, Brandon Tanev and Alex Wennberg also appeared in every game.
Jack Eichel and Shea Theodore both returned for Vegas. Eichel had missed two straight while Theodore had missed the previous seven.
Kraken: Seattle will wait to see the result of Colorado’s game at Nashville on Friday that will determine its opponent in the first round of the playoffs.
Golden Knights: Will face Winnipeg in the opening round. Vegas was 3-0-0 against the Jets this season.
GOLDEN KNIGHTS 3, KRAKEN 1
Vegas 1 1 1—3
Seattle 1 0 0—1
First Period—1, Vegas, Smith 26, 9:56. 2, Seattle, Schwartz 21 (Wennberg, Geekie), 16:20.
Second Period—3, Vegas, Martinez 3 (Barbashev, Eichel), 12:37 (sh).
Third Period—4, Vegas, Stephenson 16, 19:22 (en).
Shots on Goal—Vegas 5-9-5—19. Seattle 13-14-7—34.
Power-play opportunities—Vegas 0 of 2; Seattle 0 of 4.
Goalies—Vegas, Brossoit 7-0-3 (31 shots-30 saves). Seattle, Grubauer 17-14-4 (18-16).
A—17,151 (17,100). T—2:33.
Referees—Garrett Rank, Graham Skilliter. Linesmen—Ryan Galloway, Trent Knorr.