Golden Knights rally to beat Panthers in Game 1 of Cup Final

LAS VEGAS — After Adin Hill made perhaps the best save in the playoffs, Zach Whitecloud’s long-range shot with just over 13 minutes remaining put the Las Vegas Golden Knights at Florida in Game 1 for Stanley on Saturday night. They defeated the Panthers, 5-2. cup final.

A White Cloud goal put Las Vegas ahead, followed by a decisive penalty kill, with captain Mark Stone scoring an insurance goal, which was confirmed following a high-stick decision. That combination, along with Hill’s 33 saves, gave Las Vegas a series lead after a frenetic opener between the Sun Belt teams, wasting little time getting used to mid-game big hits and post-whistle pushes.

Original Knights players Jonathan Marcheso and Shea Theodore also scored from two-time Vezina champion Sergei Bobrovski of Florida.

Game 2 will be held in Las Vegas on Monday.

After being behind by two points, the Panthers accelerated their physical play in the closing stages. Several penalties for brawls with 4:24 remaining left the Florida bench just one step behind.

Golden Knights goaltender Addin Hill (33) celebrated with right winger Mark Stone.
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But the outcome was decided long before that.

After an Eric Stahl short goal cost lives to 18,432 spectators, the Golden Knights bounced back to claim their ninth come-from-behind victory in the playoffs. Marcheseau (who was known for scoring big goals since arriving in Las Vegas at the opening of the franchise) answered before the end of the first period, and Theodore scored in the second period for the first time since March 7.

In the meantime, Hill made a desperate stick save to secure a goal from Nick Cousins. The save was reminiscent of Washington’s Braden Holtby’s save from the same crease five years earlier against Las Vegas.

Eric Stahl celebrates the goal.
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Anthony Duclair equalized with 10.2 seconds remaining, but the Golden Knights’ momentum did not slow down much. White Cloud’s goal, with Bobrovski out of sight, got the fans excited again.

Five years after advancing to the first year, the Golden Knights reached the finals for the second time in their sixth year of existence. Vegas won the opening game in 2018, but lost to Washington in five games in the series. Six players remain from that original team.

Jonathan Marcheseau, 81, of the Golden Knights watches Zach Whitecloud's winning goal.
Jonathan Marcheseau, 81, of the Golden Knights watches Zach Whitecloud’s winning goal.
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The Panthers are back in the cup for the first time since 1996. Twenty-seven years ago, Florida swept Colorado in the finals, but a year and a half earlier, Tkachuk was the team’s leading scorer in the playoffs.

This is the 66th time in NHL history that different teams have faced each other in a cup final, and the 46th since the beginning of the 1967-68 expansion era. This is the first time since Washington v Vegas and the third time this century that two teams that have never won a league title have met in the finals.

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