When owner Bill Foley was awarded an NHL expansion team, the Vegas Golden Knights said his goal was to win the Stanley Cup in a sixth season.
The Golden Knights defeated the Matthew Tkachuk-less Florida Panthers 9-3 on Tuesday night to capture the franchise’s first NHL championship.
The Panthers were upset after an upset to reach the finals, but fell to the deep-seeded Golden Knights, who went on to excel in the playoffs and win their title in 22 games.
Five years after the Washington Capitals won the 2018 title at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena, captain Mark Stone scored a hat trick and the Golden Knights pulled out a dominant second period as Vegas celebrated on home ice.
A closer look at Game 5:
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How the Golden Knights beat the Panthers in Game 5
The Panthers’ power play struggled throughout the finals and it left them trailing in Game 5.
Vegas goalie Adin Hill stopped Alexander Fargo in close, and soon after, Stone took advantage of a turnover to start a 2-on-1 gap with Chandler Stephenson. With the pass picked off, he made a slick move in front of the net and shot the puck past Panthers goalie Sergey Bobrovsky for a short-handed goal.
The Golden Knights took advantage of another odd break less than two minutes in, and defenseman Nicholas Hack fired a loose puck into the net to finish it off.
In the second period, Florida defenseman Aaron Ekplat cut the deficit to 2-1 with a shot off a screen, and then Vegas took over again.
Nine years after scoring the Cup-winning goal for the Los Angeles Kings in the 2014 Finals, defenseman Alec Martinez put Vegas back on top with two goals.
Shea Theodore and William Carlson made it 4-1 over fellow original Golden Knight Reilly Smith, and Stone went 5-1 on a one-timer. Michael Amadio capped the dominant period with his own rebound past Bobrovsky with 1.2 seconds left.
Vegas’ Ivan Barbashev scored in the third period before Florida’s Sam Reinhardt and Sam Bennett scored in the third period to make it 7-1. Stone’s third goal came into the empty net at 14:06 and Nicholas Roy scored the final goal with a minute to play.
Adin Hill shines for the Golden Knights
Hill had to come up with big saves even though the game was lost. He stopped Anton Lundell early, made a save on Fargo and robbed Anthony Duclair with a glove save in the third period.
Hill was one of five goalies the Golden Knights used during the regular season. He entered the game after Laurent Brossoit was injured in the second round and went 11-4 the rest of the playoffs.
Jonathan Marchesault won the Conn Smyth Trophy
Marchessault, who was undrafted by the Panthers in the expansion draft, won the playoff MVP award. He finished with 13 goals, tied for the playoff lead, and 25 points, second behind teammate Jack Eichel.
Stone, as is tradition for a team captain, was the first to raise the Stanley Cup. He handed over to Smith and the remaining original members of the Golden Knights took their turn.
The Golden Knights franchise’s path to the Stanley Cup
The Golden Knights’ run to the Stanley Cup Finals in their first season in 2017-18 pushed them aggressively. They traded for Stone in 2019, signed Alex Pietrangelo in 2020 and traded for Jack Eichel in 2021. Last season, cap woes and injuries caused the team to miss the playoffs for the first time, prompting the firing of Peter DeBoer and the hiring of a coach. Bruce Cassidy. Hill was signed as a backup goalie in 2022.
They overcame major injuries this season (Stone, multiple goaltenders) and added physical forward Barbashev at the deadline to win the West’s best record. With Stone’s return to the playoffs, Eichel produced healthy and original Golden Knights players (Marchesault, Karlsson, Theodore, Smith, etc.), and Vegas swept past Winnipeg, Edmonton, Dallas and Florida.
The previous rapid expansion team to win a Cup after the Original Six era was the 1973-74 Philadelphia Flyers in their seventh season.
Matthew Tkachuk missed Game 5
Tkachuk, the Panthers’ leading scorer, was unable to suit up for the game. He absorbed a huge hit in Game 3 and scored the tying goal in Florida’s overtime victory. But he was limited to four shifts in the third period of Game 4. Russian winger Grigory Denisenko made his playoff debut in the fourth row.
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