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2023 Stanley Cup Final: Game 2

Steve Marcus

Vegas Golden Knights right wing Jonathan Marchessault (81), and center Ivan Barbashev (49) celebrate with defenseman Alec Martinez (23) after Martinez’ goal in the first period of Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Florida Panthers at T-Mobile Arena Monday, June 5, 2023, in Las Vegas. STEVE MARCUS

SUNRISE, FLA. — Improving the penalty kill was a focal point for the Vegas Golden Knights heading into the Stanley Cup Final.

So far, so good.

The Golden Knights have killed all seven Florida Panthers power plays through two games, just one reason why Vegas carries a 2-0 lead in the Cup Final heading into Game 3 tonight at FLA Live Arena.

“I think we’ve tried to be more aggressive at the right time,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Any off-net shot, when it’s 50-50, we have to be on our toes. In general, if we can get through a kill and get our game back without doing it two or three times in a row to get the other team momentum is important.”

It’s complicated to critique a team that’s two wins from the first championship in franchise history, but the Golden Knights have gotten by with a below-average penalty kill.

Going into the Cup Final, the Golden Knights killed just 61.3% of penalties in the first three rounds. Yet they still finished their first three series in five, six and six games, respectively. That number is likely low due to the Edmonton Oilers’ elite power play going 9 for 23 during the second-round matchup.

That area will have a heightened focus with the series shifting to South Florida, where the Panthers will host a Stanley Cup Final game for the first time since 1996.

“A lot of it is discipline, and not putting ourselves in those positions,” Golden Knights defenseman Zach Whitecloud said. “That’s something that’s been part of our group for a long time now.”

The improved play on special team has come from multiple factors.

The Golden Knights have preached structure in their rotations while down a skater for two minutes. Rotations have been quicker and Vegas also credits doing a better job closing gaps in front of the net.

There’s also been an emphasis on clearing the puck quicker. Instead of trying to make the extra pass for the better clear, it’s been one touch and immediately trying to get the puck out of the zone.

Whitecloud said that is most crucial on the penalty kill this time of year.

“You can buy yourself 15, 20 seconds if that power play needs a change, and it gives yourself a little bit of time,” Whitecloud said.

But a bulk of the credit is going to the one preventing the Florida power-play goals.

Adin Hill has turned aside all 15 shots he’s faced, including 12 in Monday’s 7-2 win in Game 2 at T-Mobile Arena. His candidacy for the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP continues to grow with each performance and win, but holding a Florida power play scoreless on the man advantage — after scoring on the power play in seven of the last eight games before the Cup Final — is another bullet point to his strong resume.

“We’ve been pretty connected,” center William Karlsson said. “The chances they had, we’ve needed Hilly to stop them.”

The Panthers have racked up the penalty minutes through two games — a combined 130, including 86 in Game 2. The majority of that has come from numerous misconduct penalties, three from star forward Matthew Tkachuk.

Tkachuk has 36 penalty minutes in the first two games. That’s already the ninth most ever in a Cup Final and 17 minutes shy of tying the record. Florida needs its Hart Trophy nominee on the ice in those situations.

The Panthers will look to drive momentum from their home crowd — which could hit in excess of 20,000 — to take advantage of those opportunities. But the Golden Knights are 6-2 on the road this postseason and have not lost a Game 3 this season, all on the road.

“They’re a team that likes to create a lot coming into the zone on power plays, and a lot of teams are moving in that direction,” Whitecloud said. “That’s one area where I think we’ve been solid and we need to keep getting better at.”

Projected Golden Knights 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

Adin Hill

Golden Knights-Panthers, Stanley Cup Final Game 3

When: 5 p.m.

Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise, Fla.


Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM

Odds: Panthers -120, Golden Knights +104; O/U 6 (Westgate SuperBook)

Danny Webster can be reached at 702-259-8814 or [email protected]. Follow Danny on Twitter at

Article written by #LasVegasSun