The question heading into the Stanley Cup Final was whether Vegas Golden Knights’ Aden Hill could continue his solid play and keep up with Florida Panthers goaltender Sergey Bobrovsky.
The answer was yes in Game 1 as the Golden Knights beat the Panthers 5-2 Saturday night, with Hill making a qualifier save on Florida’s Nick Cousins. He had 33 saves-for-29 for Bobrovsky, who had an 11-1 record.
The Golden Knights, who reached the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural 2017-18 season, have picked up three wins from their first championship. Game 2 is Monday night in Las Vegas (8 p.m. ET, TNT).
The Golden Knights got goals from Jonathan Marchesault, Shea Theodore and Riley Smith, members of the 2017-18 squad, as well as Zach Whitecloud and Mark Stone making up for Florida goals Eric Staal and Anthony Duclair.
Game 1 look:
Gorgeous bodice by Adin Hill from Golden Knights
Hill was busy in the first half, making eight saves, smashing Staal’s curling short-handed goal and even getting involved in a scrum.
But he saved his best in the second period. Cousins had the net wide open to put the puck on after a tic-tac-toe pass, but Hill stretched out and got the heel of his stick on the shot. Cousins had another chance, but Golden Knights fullback Alex Pietrangelo broke up the play.
“I think that’s the kind of thing you dream about when you’re older, and you save big,” Hill told TNT. “It was nice. I was just kind of desperate. I just reached out a stick and got a piece of it.”
Hill and Cousins shared the first scrum period, though Cousins picked up the only penalty in the exchange.
Hill also stopped Sam Reinhart on a shorthand breakaway with 2:07 remaining in the third as the Panthers attempted to get back in the game.
Eric Staal of the Panthers opens the scoring, but the Golden Knights are swarming
Cousins was in the box when the Panthers got to the board to break a scoreless tie. Staal got a feed from Anton Lundell on a 3-on-2 break, went behind the net and scored at 9:40 of the first period.
Staal, 38, who also played in the 2021 Stanley Cup Final with the Montreal Canadiens, scored his last championship game on June 14, 2006, during a Carolina Hurricanes run.
Florida was 8-0 in the playoffs when it scored first, but Marquessault in Vegas tied the game with 2:42 in the first period as the Golden Knights continued strong play. It was Marchesault’s tenth goal in his last 11 matches.
Theodore’s goal in the second period and Whitecloud’s winner in the third was the fourth and fifth goals scored by a Golden Knights defenseman in the playoffs. Florida’s Duclair tied the game 10 seconds before the end of the second period.
Stone’s goal was checked to see if he hit the puck first with a high stick. It was confirmed as a good goal to make it 4-2 and left the Panthers short due to a failed challenge.
“I think they were just excited to get us in the box again,” Panthers coach Paul Morris joked about the quick review. “I thought that was quick.”
Matthew Tkachuk of Florida remained under observation
Tkachuk would have gotten help if he hadn’t stopped Hill Cousins. But he was held without a point after hitting three game-winning goals and assisting on the other goal during the Hurricanes’ sweep in the Eastern Conference Final. He was limited to two shots (he also hit the post) and turned the puck before Stone scored.
Tkachuk went into the dressing room early when he received four minutes for a rough on Nicholas Hague and also received a foul play during a third period.
It was one of three pickups in the game, which began after boxing announcer Michael Puffer said, “Let’s get ready to rumble.”
Florida’s Sam Bennett and Vegas’ Radko Judas and Chandler Stephenson also had misconduct in the third period.
The Golden Knights also won their opening game in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final and then lost four in a row to the Washington Capitals. …the Panthers fell to 0-5 in franchise history in the Final. But Morris reminded reporters that the Panthers had a 1-0, 3-1 first-round win over the Boston Bruins. He said, “Everyone is just breathing.”
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