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2023 Stanley Cup Final

Is the Pressure on the Vegas Golden Knights Going into Game 5?



Vegas knights
Phil Pritchard, left, and Mike Bolt — known as The Keepers of the Cup — present the Stanley Cup after the Colorado Avalanche defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of the 2022 Stanley Cup Final on June 26 in Tampa. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Throughout this postseason, the Florida Panthers appeared to be playing with house money. They will try and get back to their winning ways tonight against the host Vegas Golden Knights in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Florida is most certainly the heavy underdog coming into this game what with Vegas now just a win away from winning it all.

The Stanley Cup will be inside T-Mobile Arena tonight and it will be all shined up and ready to hand over to the Golden Knights if they are able to finish off the Panthers.

The stakes for Vegas — the 6-year-old hockey team, not the city — has never been higher.

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The Panthers are not just happy to be here, but they are hungry to come home for another game. They want to keep this roller coaster ride of a season going.

Vegas can see the finish line but many times, that final hill before you reach the tape is the hardest to overcome.

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The marathon of a season has now come down to a sprint.

The Panthers are beat up but do not appear to be beaten down.

They say they’re ready for the fight that is coming. Florida is going to have to empty whatever is left in its tank tonight.

“I have been on the other side of it, being up 3-1 in the Stanley Cup Final,” said Eric Staal, who won the Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes back in 2006. That team led Edmonton 3-1 in the Final only for the series to go all the way to seven.

”It is not easy. There is a lot of pressure there. There are a lot of variables in it. Your family and friends, the Cup is in the building. Your mind can wander. For us, it’s just about winning (Tuesday) night, playing as hard as we can and just enjoying the game. Getting the W and head home is the focus and that’s all it can be. Use that stress/pressure to our advantage and be excited.”

Matthew Tkachuk’s status for tonight’s game is unknown although it sounds as though he will play even if it is in a limited capacity as was the case Saturday in Game 4.

Following the game on Saturday, he seemed determined to throw some pressure on the Golden Knights who were celebrating their victory a few dozen yards away.

The Panthers, it should be noted, won three straight in the opening round of these playoffs after being down 3-1 to the Boston Bruins.

The Vegas Golden Knights, for what it is worth, say they know what is on the line and are ready for Game 5.

”Get back to Florida, that’s pretty much the message in this room,” Tkachuk said. “That’s all we want to do. It’s the same thing in Boston; they had it packed up and ready to move on to the next round. We just want to get back to Florida.”

History, of course, is not on Florida’s side here.

Not only have the Panthers never won a game in Vegas — they are now 0-6-1 including the first two losses in this series — but only the 1942 Maple Leafs rallied from this big a deficit to win the Cup in the Final.

That Toronto team trailed Detroit 3-0 and won the final four.

The last team to force a seventh game in the Final after being down 3-1 were those 2006 Oilers.

Looking at basketball and baseball, the last teams to rally from a 3-1 deficit and win their championship were the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers and the 2016 Chicago Cubs — coincidentally against the Cleveland Indians.

“I don’t know what’s going to come from this,” Tkachuk said. “But we’re excited we have an opportunity that we’re comfortable in like we had in the Boston series. You never know.”


GAME 5 (Vegas leads 3-1)

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