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2023 Stanley Cup Final: Game 5

Steve Marcus

Jourdan Lasko of Henderson holds a homemade Stanley Cup replica during a pep rally in Toshiba Plaza before Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final at T-Mobile Arena Tuesday, June 13, 2023, in Las Vegas.

The Golden Knights have two games to play tonight.

The first is against the Florida Panthers in which the Golden Knights will try to win their first Stanley Cup championship in Game 5 at T-Mobile Arena.

The second is against human nature.

Trying to play the hockey game might be the easier of the two. The Golden Knights have won three games already in this series against the Panthers, and a fourth win would cement a championship in the sixth year that the team has called Las Vegas home.

But what about channeling the emotion that will come from inside T-Mobile Arena? What of the palpable buzz that will be felt for approximately three hours, culminating in what the Golden Knights hope will be a Stanley Cup celebration on home ice?

“We’re aware of what’s at stake and how big of a game this is for guys as individuals, the organization, the city, all these things,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “But it’s what we play for, so we’re ready for it.”

Winning a championship at home is the ultimate bonding experience between the team and fans. Those in attendance get to celebrate with their team, the culmination of an eight-month journey that is the ultimate roller coaster of emotions.

The Golden Knights had a chance to experience that feeling at home in the Western Conference Final against the Dallas Stars, but squandered that opportunity by losing Game 5. Vegas went on to win Game 6 in Dallas, 6-0, to get to this point.

Cassidy said when the opportunity arises to close out a series at home, there’s a sense of obligation to win in front of the sold-out crowd.

Defenseman Alec Martinez has experienced it twice when he won the Stanley Cup with the Los Angeles Kings in 2012 and 2014. The 2012 team was the No. 8-seeded Kings shocking the world and winning it in Game 6 at home against New Jersey.

Two years later, Martinez scored the Cup-clinching goal in double overtime of Game 5 against the New York Rangers. The sudden crescendo of fans erupting is a moment that will forever be relived on YouTube.

Martinez, 35, doesn’t think about those moments too often anymore. But he yearns to do it again.

“I think it’s only human nature for your mind to wander to know what’s at stake, but you’ve got to fight it,” Martinez said. “It’s just trying to maintain that balance of approaching it like every other game and getting to your game as fast as possible.”

There may not be a more perfect moment for the Golden Knights to end this. The Panthers are going into Game 5 heavily banged up. Star forward Matthew Tkachuk, who had a visit with the league’s concussion spotters in Game 4 but later returned to the 3-2 Vegas win, is a game-time decision in the must-win game.

If Tkachuk can’t go — which would be a shock given the situation — it becomes an even steeper hill for the Panthers to climb. They’ve come back from 3-1 already this postseason, in the first round against the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Boston Bruins.

Cassidy said it’s paramount for the Golden Knights to continue playing the way that’s worked to give them a 3-1 series lead. The series is certainly not over until that fourth win.

Walk around T-Mobile Arena for five minutes, and it’s hard not to think that it could be by the end of the night.

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

Nic Hague – Zach Whitecloud

Adin Hill

Golden Knights-Panthers Game 5, Stanley Cup Final

Time: 5 p.m.

TV: TNT

Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM

Odds: Golden Knights -200, Panthers +175; O/U 6 (Westgate SuperBook)

Danny Webster can be reached at 702-259-8814 or [email protected]. Follow Danny on Twitter at twitter.com/DannyWebster21.

Article written by #LasVegasSun

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