Published Saturday, June 3, 2023 | 4:03 p.m. | Saturday, June 3, 2023 | 4:03 p.m.
Updated 9 minutes ago
End of 2nd period: Golden Knights 2, Panthers 2
Game 1 has become a pendulum of momentum.
It starts with Adin Hill making a save that was reminiscent of legendary stick save by Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals in Game 2 of the 2018 Cup Final. Hill made a sprawling save with his stick while Panthers forward Nick Cousins was alone in front of the net. It kept the game tied 1-1 and was another notch on the impressive postseason Hill has put together.
Vegas broke the tie at 10:54 of the period when a struggling Shea Theodore looked like his old self. Theodore gathered the puck near the blue line, spun, juked past Florida’s Anthony Duclair and scored his first goal of the playoffs from the high slot.
It’s been a rough postseason for Theodore. He hasn’t looked himself offensively and hasn’t made those game-breaking plays in the offensive zone that can put life into his team. His goal did that.
Florida turned up the pressure with their forechecking late in the second period, and it paid off with 10.2 seconds left when Anthony Duclair’s quick shot off the faceoff beat Hill to tie it 2-2.
End of 1st period: Golden Knights 1, Panthers 1
The first goal of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final put the Vegas Golden Knights in an early hole. The second one evened things up.
Jonathan Marchessault got Vegas on the board with a power-play goal at 17:18 of the opening frame to tie Game 1 at a goal apiece.
Marchessault, who seconds earlier found a wide-open Mark Stone with a cross-ice pass that was stopped by Florida Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, was on the receiving end of another great pass — this one by Chandler Stephenson behind the net — and finished the one-timer for his 10th goal of the playoffs.
One of the six remaining “Golden Misfits” from the inaugural 2017-18 season, Marchessault was the Golden Knights’ selection from the Panthers in the expansion draft. Marchessault has eight goals in the last eight games.
Panthers strike first with a short-handed goal
The Golden Knights got the game’s first power play, but the Panthers got on the board first after forward Eric Staal scored a short-handed goal 9:40 into the contest.
William Karlsson had to get a new stick during the man-advantage situation. A Vegas turnover as he went to the bench allowed Florida to attack. Staal got Adin Hill out of position and scored on a wrap-around.
A penalty was assessed to Florida’s Nick Cousins following a scrum in the Vegas crease. He instigated contact with Hill and was met with a slight left from the Vegas goalie in retaliation.
It’s the first time since Game 2 of the Western Conference Final against the Dallas Stars that the Golden Knights have not scored first.
Foley daps Golden Knights from the bench
Golden Knights owner Bill Foley wanted to make sure his players had his support prior to Game 1.
Foley stood near the bench and greeted each player with fist bumps before they returned to the locker room after warmups.
From the moment Foley brought hockey to Las Vegas, his goal was to make the playoffs in three years, and win the Stanley Cup in six. They nearly accomplished both of those in the inaugural season, but the Golden Knights have been one of the constant pillars of success in the NHL since entering the league in 2018.
His team is four wins from making his second goal a reality.
Golden Knights excited to get going against Panthers
Five years ago, the Golden Knights were happy to be here.
Getting to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season was something that could only be done in video games. A first-year team coming within four victories of winning the Stanley Cup seemed improbable.
Since that run that ended in five games to the Washington Capitals, the Golden Knights have gone from being the shy, upstart franchise to showing they belong on this stage.
They’ll get a second chance to finish the story. The Golden Knights start their quest for the first Stanley Cup championship when they host the Florida Panthers in Game 1 of the Cup Final at 5 p.m.
“If you weren’t excited, something’s wrong,” defenseman Zach Whitecloud said. “I play this game for the excitement. If I’m overexcited, I take it as a good thing. It’s a moment not a lot of people get to embrace.”
The Golden Knights and Panthers split this season’s series with each team winning at home. Vegas posted a 4-2 victory on Jan. 12, but failed to sweep after Florida won 2-1 on March 7.
But if the Panthers want to lay claim to their first Cup in franchise history, as well, they’ll have to win at T-Mobile Arena, something Florida has never done. The Golden Knights are 5-0 all-time at home against the Panthers.
It’s not like the Panthers are afraid of defying the odds. They’ve done that all postseason.
The Panthers, the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference and the lowest overall seed of these playoffs, rallied from a 3-1 series to stun the Boston Bruins in the first round and haven’t looked back since. They eliminated the Toronto Maple Leafs in five games in the second round, then swept the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final.
“They’re clearly playing the best hockey of their season,” Golden Knights captain Mark Stone said. “They have good depth at forward, defense, and their goaltender is playing great. But we’re playing good, too. We like the way we’re playing.”
Panthers star Matthew Tkachuk, who leads the team with 21 points this postseason, said the Panthers are keeping that underdog mentality because they understand what the Golden Knights have done to get here.
Vegas is playing in its second Cup Final because of how they played at the right time. After losing Game 1 of the first round, they won four straight to knock off the Winnipeg Jets. After alternating wins and losses through the first five games, the Golden Knights played one of their best games in the clinching Game 6 in Edmonton against the Oilers.
Then, after jumping out to a 3-0 lead and losing the next two, Vegas shut out the Dallas Stars 6-0 in Game 6 to advance.
While this matchup says the top seed in the West faces the No. 8 seed in the East, this will be far from it. The Panthers have proven they belong on this stage. The Golden Knights, to some degree, have had to prove naysayers wrong to get here.
“It’s awesome to be back here,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “I think every guy in the final would tell you that.”
Golden Knights-Panthers Game 1, Stanley Cup Final
Time: 5 p.m.
Where: T-Mobile Arena
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM
Odds: Golden Knights -135, Panthers +115; O/U 5.5 (Westgate SuperBook)
Golden Knights projected lineup
Ivan Barbashev – Jack Eichel – Jonathan Marchessault
Reilly Smith – William Karlsson – Michael Amadio
Brett Howden – Chandler Stephenson – Mark Stone
William Carrier – Nicolas Roy – Keegan Kolesar
Alec Martinez – Alex Pietrangelo
Brayden McNabb – Shea Theodore
Nicolas Hague – Zach Whitecloud
Keep this live blog handy. We’ll have updates as the game progresses.