The Vegas Golden Knights blew the game open with four goals in the second period and hammered the Florida Panthers, 9-3. The team takes home the Stanley Cup in just its sixth year of existence—the fastest since the NHL expanded from six teams to 12 for the 1967-1968 season.
The Florida Panthers, desperate on the brink of elimination, got chippy almost immediately as a failed scoring chance in front of the Vegas net less than three minutes into the first period resulted in a brief scrum in front of the goal. After some pushing and shoving, tempers cooled and no penalties were called.
Florida played with intensity from the start, outshooting and outhitting VGK through the first eight minutes of the game. But an interference penalty with 12:07 remaining in the period gave the Knights the first power play opportunity of the evening.
VGK had their chances, mustering a couple of shots on goal, but Florida successfully killed off the penalty—an area where they have struggled mightily during the Stanley Cup Final.
The tables turned as Vegas’ Keegan Kolesar was whistled for an interference penalty with 9:22 to play in period one. But Vegas was absolutely unfazed and responded by getting on the board with a shorthanded goal. Mark Stone scored for VGK on an unassisted wrist shot with 8:08 remaining in the first.
The delirious crowd at T-Mobile Arena reached another level after Nicholas Hague scored to make it 2-0, Golden Knights, with 6:19 to play. He was assisted by Jack Eichel and Jonathan Marchessault. Thanks in part to more stellar play in goal by Adin Hill, the game remained 2-0 until the period concluded.
With their playoff hopes very much on the line, Florida answered with a goal 2:15 into the second period. But as they have done throughout the 2023 NHL playoffs, the Golden Knights responded. VGK peppered Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky with a flurry of shots and Alec Martinez finally found the net for Vegas, extending the lead to 3-1.
The carnage continued less than two minutes later, as Reilly Smith billowed the net with a snapshot with 7:47 remaining in the second to make it 4-1, Golden Knights. A Mark Stone slapshot trickled past Bobrovsky to make it 5-1 with 2:45 remaining in the period.
The crowd erupted into deafening chants of “We want the Cup!”
With history clearly within sight, the Golden Knights had no intention of letting up. The thunderous crowd cheered them on as they added a Michael Amadio goal to run it up to 6-1 just 1.2 seconds before the second period concluded.
After the second intermission, the action settled down to begin the third. Neither team got on the board until Barbashev made it 7-1 with 11:38 to play. Florida got one back just 25 seconds later. The Panthers added another with 8:21 left, but it was too little, too late. The Panthers pulled their goaltender with over six minutes to play.
The VGK fans rejoiced and littered the ice with hats, honoring Mark Stone after he potted his third goal of the night into the vacant net with 5:54 to play. The Panthers waved the white flag and brought their goaltender back in for the remainder of regulation.
The fun wasn’t over, as a Nicolas Roy goal with 1:02 left made it an unfathomable 9-3 score.
As the final minute ticked away at The Fortress, the result was inevitable: The Vegas Golden Knights were Stanley Cup Champions.
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