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Panthers Score Two Empty-Net Goals, Defeat Golden Knights 4-1

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For the first time in 705 days, the Vegas Golden Knights (25-16-3) and Florida Panthers (30-9-5) played each other in a game of hockey. This matchup went to the Panthers as they defeated the Golden Knights 4-1. The score may look bad, but with two empty-net goals, the game was mostly a tight one-goal game.

Entering the game things were looking up for the Golden Knights as both Max Pacioretty and Reilly Smith skated in warmups and then went on to play. Smith had missed two games in COVID-19 protocols and Pacioretty ten after he underwent wrist surgery.

This game also marked the return game for Evgenii Dadonov for the first time since he left the Panthers to sign with the Ottawa Senators in free agency.

The Panthers started the first period showing the Golden Knights just how fast and talented they are and why they are one of the top teams in the NHL. They came out of the gate with the first five shots on goal with Aaron Ekblad having two of them.

Slowly but surely through the first period, the Golden Knights came back and began to recover after their slow start. After the first five shots by the Panthers, the Golden Knights put up nine shots themselves.

One of these came off the stick of Zach Whitecloud, who fired a laser top corner on Spencer Knight for the first goal of the game. The play was set up well by Shea Theodore, who like Johnny Cash, walked the line and fed Mattias Janmark who then passed the puck to Whitecloud.

This goal gives Whitecloud his twelfth point of the season which ties his career-high point mark of 2020-21 in thirty fewer games.

The Golden Knights continued to get some offensive chances in the latter stages of the first period. Nolan Patrick had a quick breakaway but missed the net on his shot attempt.

Similarly, Mark Stone almost had a breakaway but had his stick caught in Carter Verhaeghe and lost his twig. Stone wanted a penalty shot on the play but didn’t get one. Instead, the Golden Knights received a powerplay.

On the powerplay, the Panthers scored shorthanded with Alexander Barkov ripping home a one-timer. This was both Barkov’s 500th career NHL point and 200th career NHL goal.

The Golden Knights started the second period off on the wrong foot as well. Sam Bennett simply walked in, fired a wrist shot, and scored on Robin Lehner. Nicolas Hague screened Lehner a tad on the play but as the saying goes this is “one Lehner would like to have back.” The Panthers took the lead 2-1.

The Golden Knights had three powerplay opportunities to tie things up in the second period alone but were unable to score. The game remained a tightly contested matchup against two strong teams until the end.

Peter DeBoer and the Golden Knights bench pulled Lehner with 1:15 remaining and took a timeout at 1:07. But a costly mistake by Theodore allowed Mason Marchment to steal the puck and score on the empty net. The Panthers would then add another empty-netter with Bennett scoring his second goal of the game.

The Golden Knights will travel to Tampa Bay to take on the Lightning Saturday at 4:00 pm PST.

Vegas Hockey Now’s Player of the Game: Shea Theodore.

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Owen Krepps covers the Vegas Golden Knights for Vegas Hockey Now. A 2022 Robert Morris University graduate, he has previously written for RMU Sentry Media, Colonial Sports Network, The Titusville Herald, Pittsburgh Sports Now, and Pittsburgh Hockey Now.

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