It has been a while since the Florida Panthers lost a game — much less one on the road — but it has happened before and they kept that in mind after losing Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday to the host Vegas Golden Knights.
Before losing 5-2 to the Golden Knights, Florida had not tasted defeat since Game 4 against the Maple Leafs on May 10 in Sunrise.
They had not lost on the road since April 17 in Boston, their first game on this playoff journey.
Yet here they were Friday night in Las Vegas being asked about a loss.
The first question posed to coach Paul Maurice was where did this one get away from you?
He did not seem all that upset.
“The 3-2 goal made it tough,” he responded. “It is when you only have 2 and they have 3.”
The Panthers did not look very good Saturday in a third period Vegas took control of the game in, but life does go on.
Florida survived that loss at home to Toronto in May; it certainly bounced back from losing at Boston in Game 1 of that series.
How the Panthers respond to this loss will likely determine how things play out in this 2023 Stanley Cup Final.
Maurice was quick to remind of Florida’s recent past.
Not every series is going to be a sweep. Those are so rare, the Panthers had never had one until Carolina.
“We lost the first game of the Boston series and got a little better,” Maurice said. “Then we lost two more and got a little better. Everyone, just f-ing breathe.”
It was a similar response to the one Maurice gave after that Game 4 loss to the Maple Leafs. Losses happen in the playoffs. They just do.
The biggest issue for the Panthers coming in was how much the 10-day break from play would affect them.
Early on, it did not. Florida was the better team for much of the first period.
The Panthers took a 1-0 lead on a shorthanded goal from Eric Staal midway through the period as goalie Sergei Bobrovsky looked sharp.
Florida kept things close to the vest as it has throughout this postseason as all but one game of the previous two games were decided by a single goal — and the Panthers won Game 1 in Toronto 4-2.
Down 2-1 late in the second, Anthony Duclair fired off a shot following a Sasha Barkov faceoff win to tie things going into the third.
Florida was right where it wanted to be.
Only Vegas came out flying in the third, pinned the Panthers in their zone for a lot of it and ended up scoring twice before everything unraveled as Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett were ejected along with Chandler Stephenson with 4:24 remaining.
That breakdown came not long after Mark Stone gave the Knights a 4-2 lead after picking off a clearing pass from Tkachuk and scored.
But … the Panthers had their chances.
Florida had a power play chance up 1-0 in the first before Jonathan Marchessault tied it.
Nick Cousins had an unreal look at an pretty empty net yet was robbed by Adin Hill’s paddle early in the second which would have given the Panthers a 2-1 lead.
“Unreal save,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Gamechanger.”
Florida also hit a number of posts including from Barkov and Brandon Montour late in the second.
In the third, the Panthers looked sloppy at times and it cost them.
“We do have a veteran group and it showed in the third period,” Cassidy said. “It showed late in the third as we kept our discipline and got to the finish line.”
If Florida can clean things up in Game 2, things could be OK.
But this Vegas team is for real and the Panthers never thought otherwise.
As is said, you don’t have a series until the home team loses.
The Panthers can get back in this thing come Monday night.
“There are a lot of things we can improve on,” Maurice said. “But it’s going to be tight. It is going to be tight like that. Both goalies made some big saves, special teams will keep getting better on both sides as we figure each other out. We just don’t see each other very much.
“We’ll learn as we go.”
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
THE 2023 STANLEY CUP FINAL
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
GAME 2 (Vegas Leads 1-0)
- When: Monday, 8 p.m.
- Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas
- TV: TNT
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM, WPOW 96.5 FM2, WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Series Schedule — Game 1: @Vegas 5, Florida 2; Game 2: Monday at Vegas, 8 (TNT); Game 3: Thursday at Florida, 8 (TNT); Game 4: Saturday at Florida, 8 (TNT); Game 5*: Tuesday June 13 at Vegas, 8 (TNT); Game 6*: Friday June 16 at Florida, 8 (TNT); Game 7*: Monday June 19 at Vegas, 8 (TNT). * – If Necessary
- 2022-23 Regular Season Series (Even 1-1): @Vegas 4, Florida 2 (Jan. 12); @Florida 2, Vegas 1 (March 7)
- All-time Regular Season Series: Golden Knights lead 6-3-1
- Postseason History: First meeting
- How They Got Here — Vegas: d. Winnipeg in 5, Edmonton in 6, Dallas in 6; Florida: d. Boston in 7, Toronto in 5, Carolina in 4.