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GOLDEN KNIGHTS STANLEY CUP CHAMPS! Stone Hat Trick Humbles Panthers 9-3 in Gm5



Vegas Golden Knights Win Stanley Cup, Defeat Florida Panthers 7-2

LAS VEGAS — On Nov. 22, 2016, Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley proclaimed the plan was to win the Stanley Cup in six years. Tuesday, a group of misfits and castoffs from organizations across the NHL, including six original Misfits from the inaugural team that got this far only to suffer defeat, made good on Foley’s vision.

Six years later, the Vegas Golden Knights are Stanley Cup champions. Mark Stone scored a hat trick punctuated by an empty net goal with nearly six minutes remaining. Chants of “We Want the Cup” filled the T-Mobile Arena as the VGK ended the Florida Panthers‘ Cinderella run in five games, winning 9-3 at T-Mobile Arena.

The Golden Knights won the Stanley Cup Final in five games and secured the franchise’s first championship after three previous trips to the Western Conference Final (in 2020, it was the Final Four due to COVID-forced re-alignment).

Theirs is a mishmash cast of players, many of whom needed a second or third chance to reach their fullest potential in the NHL. From Jack Eichel fighting for risky back surgery and forcing his way out of beleaguered Buffalo to Chandler Stephenson finding a home after being dumped by the Washington Capitals for only a fifth-round pick, the organization remains a home for the discarded and undervalued.

And the six original Misfits, William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, Brayden McNabb, Reilly Smith, Shea Theodore, and William Carrier completed their mission.

In keeping the misfit tradition, starting goalie Adin Hill was their fourth-string goalie and with his third organization in three years. He made the game-changing play midway through the first period with a lunging stop on an unabated Sam Bennett. Moments later, the Golden Knights scored the first goal of the game.

Hill completed his star-turn. The former Arizona Coyotes and San Jose Sharks backup goalie was both a part of the incredible 13-2-0 start to the regular season and relegated to the AHL at midseason. The hockey gods smiled upon the burly B.C. native, and he was given another chance beginning in Game 3 of Round Two against the Edmonton Oilers.

Hill never again gave coach Bruce Cassidy a reason to question the choice. He finished the Stanley Cup playoffs with the best save percentage and began Game 5  at .936.

The Golden Knights overwhelmed the Panthers from Game 1. There were moments or stretches in which the Panthers were on the attack, but the Golden Knights were mostly in control, and the outcome was rarely in doubt. If not for a furious rally in the final two minutes of Game 3, the series could have been a sweep.

Jonathan Marchessault finished tied with the second most points in the playoffs (25) and tied for the most goals (13). He had one assist Tuesday, temporarily tying Eichel, who had three assists, elevating his total to a league-leading 26.

The Panthers played without their playoff leader Matthew Tkachuk, who seemingly provided every needed goal along their improbable run to the Stanley Cup Final through the three best teams in the Eastern Conference (Boston, Toronto, Carolina).

In the first period, both teams struggled to harness the untameable energy in the building. The crowd roared for every loose puck, every Golden Knights rush, regardless of seriousness.

However, the Golden Knights scored a shorty aided by a spectacular lunging save by Hill.

Midway through the first period, Florida had a power play, but the Golden Knights seized the opportunity. Bennett had an uncontested run toward the net, but Hill lunged forward, reminiscent of a Marc-Andre Fleury poke-check. The Golden Knights countered moments later. Stone led a two-on-one. He cut toward the net, stopped 10 feet from Florida goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, then Stone (9) ripped a top-shelf wrist shot into the net.

The Fortress crowd, already struggling to contain its emotion, erupted, and so did Stone, whose cathartic yell seemed to rise above 18,000 people.

Less than two minutes later, Eichel pushed the play. Bobrovsky stopped his backhander, but the resulting chaos near the crease ended when defenseman Nic Hague (2) raced to the front of the net and buried the rebound.

The Golden Knights were faced with adversity early in the second period when Florida defenseman Aaron Ekblad scored on a long wrister through traffic to halve the lead.

However, that’s when the Golden Knights throttled the Panthers. They attacked in waves, line after line, until they had broken the Florida Panthers.

Midway through the second period, Alec Martinez was the late trailer on a rush with Eichel, who left a buttery soft pass for him at the top of the circle. Martinez fired a top-corner shot past Bobrovsky for their third goal.

It was 12 years to the day after Martinez scored the Cup-winning goal for the LA Kings in double OT.

Less than two minutes later, Stone (8) scored his second of the game when his one-timer dribbled through Bobrovsky.

Michael Amadio (5) poked a loose puck through a net-front scrum with two seconds remaining in the second period to end any doubts. The party began in Vegas as chants of “We Want the Cup” began.

Midway through the third period, Ivan Barbashev and Sam Reinhart traded goals, but the game had already been decided. Panthers’ d-man Gustav Forsling also scored a late goal.

Stone scored an unassisted empty netter with six minutes remaining as hats rained down. Nic Roy also added a late goal to complete his stellar playoff performance which will be forever highlighted by holding Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid to just three even-strength points in Round Two.

The attendance was 19,058, the largest in Golden Knights history. Jonathan Marchessault won the Conn Smythe Trophy.

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