The Stanley Cup Final finally started on Saturday night and despite being tied with the host Vegas Golden Knights going into the third, a number of mistakes cost the Florida Panthers.
Mistakes you cannot make against the Golden Knights.
The Panthers, at times, looked like a team which had 10 days between games as they played their sloppiest game of the playoffs since the opening round against Boston.
Vegas ended up scoring three goals in the third and ran away with a 5-2 win to take Game 1 as the Panthers looked a lot like they did in Game 4 against the Bruins.
With the Panthers down a pair late in the third, both Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett were tossed from the game giving the Knights a long power play to end things and basically send Florida to Game 2.
Eric Staal and Anthony Duclair each scored for the Panthers; Sergei Bobrovsky made 29 saves.
Adin Hill got the win for the Golden Knights, stopping 30 shots.
Tied at 2 after Duclair scored in the waning seconds of the second period, Vegas retook the lead at 6:59 of the third when Zach Whitecloud scored from 50 feet out after Florida’s defense could not clear the puck out of the zone.
Mark Stone then picked off a clearing pass from Tkachuk before it got out of the zone, moved in on Bobrovsky and ripped a shot past him to give the Knights a two-goal lead — the first time the Panthers had trailed by 2 since Game 2 in Toronto.
Reilly Smith put the finishing touches on things with an empty net goal on the power play.
Florida is now 0-5 in Stanley Cup Final games having been swept by Colorado back in 1996.
The Panthers also saw their eight-game road playoff winning streak come to an end. It is the second-longest road streak in NHL history, second only to the 2012 Cup champion Kings.
The Panthers opened the scoring in a unorthodox way — scoring off a shorthanded chance.
Eric Staal started it by getting a loose puck against the wall and finding Anton Lundell; with the Knights a player down due to a broken stick, Lundell quickly rolled into the Vegas zone and gave it back to Staal.
He wrapped around the net as Hill was way outside and banked it off the goalie and in.
This came after Hill and Nick Cousins mixed it up with the Vegas goalie hitting the Florida forward with his stick. Regardless, Cousins got the penalty — and a smile in the box when Staal scored.
Vegas eventually tied it up when Jonathan Marchessault got another one against the team which let him go as Florida left him unprotected once again and he scored from the slot on a power play.
Shea Theodore gave the Knights a lead midway through the second on a shot from inside the blue as Duclair was slowed after blocking a shot and was out of position.
Duclair, obviously, made up for it.
With 11 seconds left, Sasha Barkov won a faceoff deep in the Vegas zone, got it to Duclair who whipped one through traffic to tie it at 2 with 10.2 seconds remaining in the period.
GOALS OF GAME 1
- Panthers 1, Knights 0 (9:40 SH, 1st): The Panthers got their first shorthanded goal of these playoffs as Anton Lundell found Eric Staal driving to the net. Staal wrapped the puck around and banked it off Adin Hill for the opening goal of the Final.
- Knights 1, Panthers 1 (17:18 PP, 1st): Jonathan Marchessault gets another against the Panthers, this time a wide-open one-timer off a pass from Chandler Stephenson.
- Knights 2, Panthers 1 (10:54, 2nd): Shea Theodore fires one through traffic and it finds a way past Sergei Bobrovsky as the Knights get their first lead of the game.
- Panthers 2, Knights 2 (19:49, 2nd): Sasha Barkov wins a faceoff deep in the zone, finds Anthony Duclair — who was hobbled on the Theodore goal — and rips off a shot that appeared to find a Vegas defender on its way in.
- Knights 3, Panthers 2 (6:59, 3rd): Zach Whitecloud zips one in from the top of the slot after Florida failed to get it out of the offensive zone and the Knights have the lead once more.
- Knights 4, Panthers 2 (13:51, 3rd): Mark Stone picks off a clearing pass, makes a move inside and whips one past Bobrovsky to put the Panthers down 2 goals for the first time since Game 2 in Toronto.
- Knights 5, Panthers 2 (18:15 PP, 3rd): Reilly Smith, the other Florida expansion Knight, got the empty net power play goal to wrap things up.
GR’S 3 STARS OF GAME 1
1. Adin Hill, Vegas
2. Jonathan Marchessault, Vegas
3. Shea Theodore, Vegas
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 June 10 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 Vs. Vegas (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.