The Stanley Cup Finals are finally underway, and the Vegas Golden Knights and Florida Panthers have begun their battle for their first Stanley Cups in their respective franchises’ history. But one team made the Cup final more recently, and it was that team that won in Game 1, as the Golden Knights won 5-2 with a blowout three goals in the third period.
It was fitting that the player who opened the scoring in the Cup Final was one of the few people to have won the Stanley Cup. A reckless Vegas roll on the power play led to the puck returning the other way, and the result was Eric Staal scores on a wraparound for a shorthanded goal to make it 1-0 for Florida.
But the Golden Knights managed to fight back later in the period, and it came down to the power play no less to redeem themselves. Chandler Stephenson started skating behind the net, then made a nifty pass to sneak the puck in front of the net where Jonathan Marchessault scored the easy goal to tie it up.
The second period rolled around and Vegas continued their momentum. Shea Theodore had some moves at the blue line, ejecting Anthony Duclair and shooting the puck to the net beat Sergei Bobrovsky to give the Golden Knights a 2-1 lead.
However, Game 1 appeared to be the night of redemptions, as a late face-off in the Vegas zone led to Duclair takes the loose puck out of the scrum and surprises Adin Hill to equalize in the last 11 seconds of the frame.
But in the third period, the Golden Knights took care of business. Zach Whitecloud gave Vegas the lead seven minutes into the frame with a point shot, and Mark Stone took advantage of a reckless Panthers turnover, hit the puck in the air and brought it home to make it 4-2 with about six minutes left (after reviewing to make sure it wasn’t a high-stick). To make matters worse, the Panthers saw their best player, Matthew Tkachuk, kicked out of the game after some reckless play, and the Golden Knights capped it all off with an empty-net goal from Reilly Smith to secure the 5-2 win. and take a 1 -0 series lead.
Despite all the Vegas onslaught, only two players had multiple points in the game, Theodore registering one assist with his goal, and Jack Eichel had two assists even with his scoreless streak now reaching eight games. Hill was a key part of the win, stopping 33 of 35 shots he faced for a .943 save percentage.