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Stanley Cup: the Golden Knights win 5 to 2 the first game of the final against the Panthers

LAS VEGASZach Whitecould hit the target 6:59 into the third period, and the Vegas Golden Knights added with aplomb in the final period to win 5-2 over the Florida Panthers on Saturday in Game No. 1 in the Stanley Cup Finals.

After a glorious chance obtained by Ivan Barbashev, defender Whitecloud marauded in, his seemingly innocuous throw shoving its way past Sergei Bobrovsky, on the glove side.

The 26-year-old Manitoban’s throwing speed seemed somewhat reduced by the intervention of Florida forward Carter Verhaeghe.

Instead of just protecting their lead, the Western representatives kept the pedal to the metal against the powerful offensive machine of the Panthers.

It led to the net of captain Mark Stone, who shot straight after deftly hitting the puck on the fly in the middle of the slot. Stone showed outstanding hand-eye coordination to parry opponent Matthew Tkachuk’s raised pass attempt. Officials checked at the request of the Panthers if the stick had been raised too high to beat the disc, but they confirmed the goal.

“I was impressed with how quickly they came back with a negative response. Maybe they were excited to send us back to the penalty box,” laughed Panthers head coach Paul Maurice.

The Knights then spun to victory, but in defeat, there is no question of pressing the panic button for the Panthers who have seen others during these series.

“We lost Game 1 against the Bruins and then we got better. We lost two more games and we got better. Everyone can breathe. I feel that you are nervous, ”played down Paul Maurice.

Staal’s first goal in the final since 2006

It was 38-year-old Panthers veteran Eric Staal who had the honor of scoring the first goal of the final game, when he surprised the Knights shorthanded at 9:40 of the first period.

Staal accepted a throw-in from Anton Lundell at the start of the zone, and made the turnstile play around the Vegas cage to deceive the vigilance of Adin Hill.

The streak started when the Knights fumbled on the blue line after William Karlsson retired to the bench for breaking his stick, attempting a slapshot.

It was the eldest of the Staal brothers’ first goal in the final series since the Carolina Hurricanes won the Lord Stanley’s Trophy 17 years ago.

Quebecer Jonathan Marchessault then added another argument to his candidacy for the Conn-Smythe Trophy, scoring his 10th goal of the post-season calendar, and an 8th in his last eight games.

I could score zero I wouldn’t mind. The important thing right now is victory, he argued. If you lose and you score, I’ll be disappointed, but if we win and I don’t score, I’ll be happy. It is the result that is important. “

The Knights net was scored on the massive attack, with just under three minutes left in the first period.

Marchessault was left unguarded in the middle of the slot, and Chandler Stephenson easily spotted him from the corner.

Hill then made one of the most memorable saves of the 2023 playoffs when he stole a goal from Nick Cousins ​​with a desperate save with the end of his stick.

“It’s an amazing save, especially with what happens next. He made saves at opportune times. We didn’t play our best game, but we found our rhythm,” Golden Knights head coach Bruce Cassidy said.

The Knights rewarded this key save by their goaltender when Shea Theodore beat Bobrovksy with a good wrist shot, while the Russian goalkeeper had his eyesight veiled. At that time, 9:06 remained to play at the midfielder.

It was Theodore’s first-ever goal this spring, having previously had seven assists in 16 games.

Manhandled by Theodore in his defensive coverage on the streak, Quebecer Anthony Duclair redeemed himself in the best possible way, bringing the clubs back to square one by scoring with 11 seconds left in the period.

Aleksander Barkov won his face-off against Stephenson, and the puck landed on Duclair’s stick blade, who fired straight away.

The third period was, however, to the advantage of the locals, who resumed their confrontation while the Panthers were guilty of a few acts of indiscipline, undermining their chances of gaining momentum.

Hill had another crucial save in store, he who frustrated Sam Reinhart on a breakaway with just under two minutes on the clock.

A few seconds later, Reilly Smith put on the insurance goal in an abandoned cage.

Game 2 premieres Monday night, once again at T-Mobile Arena.

“I liked our start, because there is a lot of uncertainty after being on the sidelines for so long. We can improve on several points, but it was tight. The goaltenders made excellent saves,” mentioned Paul Maurice.

In their only previous appearance in the Finals, in 1996, the Panthers were swept by the Colorado Avalanche.

The Knights concluded their inaugural season by reaching the Stanley Cup Finals in 2018. Washington, however, won in five games.

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