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VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 3 FLORIDA PANTHERS 2 (VGK 3-1)

Recap: The Golden Knights and Florida Panthers faced off for a crucial Game 4 in Sunrise, FL. Vegas came out firing, forcing scoring chances from the opening minute. Chandler Stephenson gave the visiting team an early lead 1:39 into the game with his ninth goal of the postseason. Goaltender Adin Hill made several key saves in the period to preserve a one-goal lead heading into the first intermission.

Vegas continued to pressure Florida’s zone and 7:28 into the middle frame Stephenson scored his second goal of the night to give his team a 2-0 advantage. A few shifts later William Karlsson buried a rebound to stretch VGK’s lead to 3-0. Towards the end of the period the Panthers got some luck and deflected a puck of two Golden Knights to earn their first goal of the game.

Florida got within one 3:49 into the final frame to make it a 3-2 Vegas lead. The Panthers had more scoring chances throughout the period, but the Golden Knights defended well down the stretch.

The Golden Knights take a 3-1 series lead and will have a chance to end the series with a win in Game 5 on Tuesday. Puck drop is scheduled for 5 PM from T-Mobile Arena. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: The Golden Knights won this game by playing exactly how they set out to play in the 2nd period. They were all over the Panthers the entire frame and it led to waves of pressure. VGK’s forecheck was by far the more consistent forcing tons of turnovers in the FLA end. Defensively, the Golden Knights have continued to do what they have done much of this season, make it impossible to get to the front of the goal. Florida had no way in and they ended up resorting to chucking pucks from the point. Vegas blocked most of them and even blocked the one that went in twice. A brilliant performance on the road has the Golden Knights coming back to Vegas with a chance to win the Stanley Cup on Tuesday. (Analysis by Ken)

Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs Florida Panthers Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final at FLA Live Arena.

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The Golden Knights Know What To Expect In Game 4 And They Believe They Know How They’ll Respond

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights have a second chance tonight to take a stranglehold on the Stanley Cup Final and defeat the Florida Panthers in their building. After a game in which Vegas felt they played well but just let it get away late, they are very confident in their ability to turn the page, wash away the thoughts of Game 3, and go out and win Game 4.

We’re really good at flipping the switch and getting ready for the next game, so today’s no different. We had a good day yesterday to regroup and then today we were able to look at some things technically and get our minds right. -Pietrangelo

As they have done all of the postseason when they’ve had a day in between road games, they took the day off from hitting the ice. No practice, no trip to FLA Live Arena, and very little focus on either what went wrong in Game 3 or what they need to do to correct it tonight.

Instead, the focus is on the bigger picture and remembering exactly why they are here and what they have a chance to accomplish.

We’re all acutely aware of what we’re playing for and I don’t think it’s a bad thing to feel like they need to discuss it. I’ve made my feelings known to make sure to remember what we’re playing for. Refocus on the long-term goal and then the next day it’s back to the short-term goal with a mentality of details and what it’s going to take to get there. -Cassidy

Having a host of players on the team that have been to the mountaintop helps in that aspect.

Having been here before the biggest thing for me is to not overthink it. Worry about the game when we get there tonight. You don’t want to sit there all day thinking about the game. -Pietrangelo

The Golden Knights have lost consecutive games just once this season, and they believe it’s because of their tremendous ability to refocus their energy and get back to the style of play they know has been successful thus far.

Tonight, in Game 4, they know what’s coming from the Panthers.

I expect that they’ll want to replicate the recipe they had in the 1st period trying to get on top of us and getting in on the forecheck. That’s with pressure, the D are up forcing us to make plays under duress and reloading hard. I thought we didn’t execute as well as we could have and maybe that’s from travel or the crowd or whatever but I expect us to pick up where we left off in the 2nd period and on. -Cassidy

Typically odd-numbered games are the swing games in a series, but tonight’s Game 4 will play a massive role in how everyone views the next three days. A 3-1 series lead will have thoughts and dreams of parades and winning at home running wild, a 2-2 tie would be completely different.

Game 3: What Went Right, What Went Wrong, What Needs To Change

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas)

For nearly 58 minutes last night, the Golden Knights were the better team. Hockey can be cruel though, and unfortunately, Vegas had to endure another lesson on the unpredictability of the best sport on the planet.

The commanding 3-0 Stanley Cup lead vanished and now the Panthers have a heartbeat where it felt like they were heading for life support.

The preponderance of the game may not have led to the outcome the Golden Knights were searching for, but that does not mean it did not exist nor that it can’t be learned from. There was plenty of good with just a sprinkle of bad. Here’s what went right, what went wrong, and what needs to change for Vegas heading into Game 4 tomorrow night.

What went right

Penalty Kill

Probably the strongest aspect of the Golden Knights’ game not only last night, but in the series as at large, has been their penalty kill. Vegas is a sterling 12 for 12 on the kill and caused the Panthers to struggle in many areas with the man advantage.

The strongest among them has been Vegas’ entry defense. Time and time again when Florida is attempting a power play breakout they’ve run into troubles at the VGK blue line. So much so that their most successful entry attempts have come by dumping the puck in. In addition, the Golden Knights have been excellent at clearing the puck when they get it on their sticks. If Vegas gets a touch, there’s a strong possibility the puck is headed 200 feet the other way.

Finally, the Golden Knights made adjustments inside of the penalty kill that helped on the later Florida Power plays.

They looked like they didn’t have the quick efficient movement like they did in Game 2 so we took some things away. What they did was hit (Sam) Reinhart in the bumper a few times and that’s something we corrected as we went along. -Cassidy

Florida was able to work the puck into Reinhart three times on a pair of power plays in the 2nd period. The final one in the 2nd and the only in the 3rd, Vegas denied that option and it further stymied the Panther power play.

Protecting the house

When you look at the shot chart from Game 3 it appears the Panthers had a lot of activity around the front of the Golden Knights’ net. However, in reality, despite the puck being there a lot more often than Vegas would prefer, Florida was not able to generate offense from directly in front of the goal.

Florida attacked from every different angle and with varying numbers advantages or disadvantages and the Golden Knights had the answer for all of them at even strength. Vegas racked up 31 shots protecting the center and there were countless numbers of stick checks that broke up plays before Florida could even attempt the shot.

Adin Hill was clean on most of his rebounds and on the ones he wasn’t the first stick on the puck in the blue paint or anywhere close was almost always by a player wearing white and gold.

Neutral zone structure

In the 2nd period the Golden Knights put on a clinic in how to defend a dangerous team through the center of the ice. Vegas constantly had at least four players between the puck and the goal when the Panthers would get it and they displayed excellent structure through the middle of the ice on every Florida breakout.

The neutral zone effectiveness led to Florida generating just four shots on goal, three scoring chances, and 0.16 expected goals at 5-on-5 in the middle frame. The Panthers were constantly caught in between on whether to dump-and-chase or try for the controlled entry and that indecision led to multiple rush chances for the Golden Knights.

What went wrong and what needs to change

Dealing with bad ice conditions

It’s something the Golden Knights have struggled with for quite some time now, at FLA Live Arena in particular. Vegas entered the game knowing they’d likely encounter some turbulence when trying to slide the puck along the ice, but they didn’t seem to react to it quickly enough at the start of the game. Florida dominated loose puck battles in the 1st period and it helped ignite their forecheck which had struggled through the first two games.

As the game went on, Vegas started to settle in, but they still believe they could have managed the poor ice better.

When the ice isn’t great sometimes you have to dumb it down a little bit and simplify the game. -Alex Pietrangelo

This really cropped up a bit late in the 3rd period when the Golden Knights began to exhibit some issues exiting the zone. Through almost all of the first nine periods, Vegas had been clean on their exits including short one-touch passes that broke Florida’s pressure. But, with the challenging ice conditions, those passes can be a bit more difficult to complete as the puck has a tendency to bounce uncontrollably.

Simpler exits can fix this. Rather than going for the clean, pretty play, Vegas may need to rely a bit more on things like dump, chip, or rim outs. This is especially important when playing with the lead as there is no longer a need to generate offense from these types of clean exits. Vegas wasn’t terrible in this department, but they definitely can improve.

Defending against the empty net

This one is obvious considering the result, but it’s been a persistent issue through the postseason for the Golden Knights. In three separate series, the first game in which Vegas faced an empty net they’ve given up a goal in the same manner. Winnipeg, Dallas, and Florida have all outnumbered Vegas in front of the goal on a rebound and poked home a massive goal to send each game to overtime.

What must change for the Golden Knights is an increased awareness of when to pressure the puck when it along the walls or at the points. Vegas’ zone defense at 5-on-5 has these keys down to a science and they’ve left the Panthers, Stars, and Jets before them all frustrated with their own inability to get to the center of the ice. But once the extra skater is out there the keys must change. On all three goals, including the massive one to tie the game last night, Vegas has found themselves losing a board battle with a defenseman away from the middle of the ice. In last night’s game, it didn’t lead directly to the goal, but it did lead to a scramble which eventually allowed Matthew Tkachuk to find inside positon on the rebound of the following shot.

There’s a fine line when playing against six skaters on when to attack and when to sit back. The Golden Knights know how to do it, and they’ve displayed it multiple times during the regular season and playoffs, they just need to walk that line a little better the next time the situation arises.

 

There’s a reason the NHL makes teams play seven times to determine which team is better. It’s because in this sport, the better team doesn’t always win. The Golden Knights have been the better team in all three games thus far in the Stanley Cup Final. It’s earned them a 2-1 series lead. And even though it feels like it could (maybe should) be 3-0, if Vegas continues to be the better team all series, those final two wins will come.

FLORIDA PANTHERS 3 VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 2 (VGK 2-1) – OT

Recap: The Golden Knights and Florida Panthers met up for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals. The Panthers struck first four minutes into the contest on a point shot through traffic. Florida and Vegas would swap penalties which led to Mark Stone’s game-tying power play goal. After the opening period, Game 3 was locked 1-1.

Both teams were awarded a power play in the middle frame and Vegas took advantage of the opportunity. Jonathan Marchessault roofed a saucer pass from Jack Eichel giving the Golden Knights their first lead of Game 3.

Vegas opened the period on the man-advantage but failed to score their third PP goal of the game. Adin Hill made some key stops down the stretch to preserve the Golden Knights’ 2-1 advantage.

Both goaltenders were sharp in the final period, making several quality saves to keep it a one-goal game. With time running out the Panthers pulled their goalie for an extra attacker. Florida put on some heavy pressure and tied the game before the two minute mark.

Florida killed off an early penalty and found a way to win Game 3 in overtime 3-2.

The Golden Knights drop Game 3 but hold a 2-1 series lead. Vegas will try and bounce back with a win in Game 4 on Saturday night. Puck drop for Game 4 is scheduled for 5 PM.(Recap by Jason)

Analysis: Vegas had to try and withstand a much better push from the Panthers to start the game. VGK were struggling under the strong forecheck for the first time in the series and allowed some dangerous chances because of it. A huge 4-on-3 power play chance was converted to stem the tide in the 1st and then the Golden Knights took complete control in the 2nd period. They were so much stronger at holding pucks in the offensive zone and it tilted the ice and forced a parade to the Panthers’ penalty box. VGK locked it down as strong as they ever have in the 3rd. But the moment the goalie came out, VGK were outnumbered around the net and it sent the game to OT. A huge penalty drawn by Stephenson sent the Golden Knights into OT with a chance to regroup and come out and win the game. They couldn’t capitalize and then the first real chance for the Panthers beats Adin Hill. Tough one to lose considering VGK outplayed the Panthers most of the night. We knew they were in for a fight, still have control though at 2-1. (Analysis by Ken)

Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs Florida Panthers Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final at FLA Live Arena.

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It Can’t Be This Easy For The Golden Knights, Can it?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

With a victory tonight, the Golden Knights will be one win closer to claiming the franchise’s first Stanley Cup trophy. Through two games Vegas is scorching Florida in the offensive zone while allowing just three goals in six periods. For all intents and purposes, the 2023 Stanley Cup Final has been a one-sided mismatch.

We’ve approached every game in the playoffs the same way. We try to take it, everyone says, one at a time, but we’ve got our backs against the wall, obviously. We’re down by two, but we’re coming home. Love our team, love our resiliency. We’re going to go out and give our best effort, play our best game tomorrow and go from there. -Marc Staal, FLA defenseman

While the right things are being said from the Panthers’ locker room, they understand tying the series over the next two games is a tall order. Sure, they recovered after falling behind in their opening round. However, the Golden Knights are not playing like an opening round team. No, Vegas is competing like one of the all-time great Stanley Cup teams. The statistics and outcomes highlight VGK’s dominance.

Highest Scoring Stanley Cup Teams In Stanley Cup Final:

  • 2023 Vegas Golden Knights – 6.0 Goals Per Game (2 Games)
  • 1980 New York Islanders – 5.2 GPG (5 Games)
  • 1991 Pittsburgh Penguins – 4.6 GPG (6 Games)
  • 1981 New York Islanders – 4.3 GPG (6 Games)
  • 2010 Chicago Blackhawks – 4.2 GPG (6 Games)

Last season, the Cup-winning Colorado Avalanche scored 20 total goals in six contests. The Golden Knights are eight goals away from matching the Avalanche’s total in only six periods. If their pace continues, Vegas will rank among the best offenses in Stanley Cup Final history.

Most pundits expect the Panthers to snap out of their two-game funk and threaten the Golden Knights series lead. Considering the flow Vegas is on right now, it wouldn’t be wise to count them out in South Florida. Especially, considering how VGK have feasted on the road.

I love the road, to be honest, where all the guys are together, having team dinners, playing cards all together, hanging out. We have such good team chemistry this year that we have a lot of fun. There’s no dull moment with that group of guys. -Jonathan Marchessault

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Defenseman Credits Forwards For Forecheck And Breakout Success

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas)

The key battleground coming in this Stanley Cup Final was the war between each team’s strong relentless forecheck and the opposing breakout. The team that was more successful winning the clashes in each zone would not only generate the majority of dangerous scoring chances but also control the flow of the game.

Through two games, the battles in both attacking zones have been a landslide in favor of the Golden Knights.

Vegas has consistently broken the pressure of the Panthers which has allowed them persistent exits, many of which are controlled. On the other end of the ice, the Golden Knights’ forecheck has caused issues for Florida leading to lots of dump, chip, and rim outs, all of which have helped to feed the VGK transition game.

Typically, the credit for the forecheck goes to the forwards while that of the breakouts goes to the defense. In the case of the Golden Knights, veteran defenseman Alec Martinez believes most of the praise on both ends goes to the Vegas front line.

As a defense group we’re doing a pretty good job of getting it to the forwards in good positions but even though we try to get it to them in those spots it doesn’t always happen. The forwards have done a really good job of making plays on the wall. That’s probably one of the most difficult situations to be in during a game of hockey. You get a bouncing puck or one that’s rimmed around and those can be the difference in a hockey game and our forwards are doing a really good job with those. -Martinez

He continued with appreciation for his teammates for their work on the other end of the ice.

The way that our forwards backcheck and reload, that allows us to stay up. Often times when the D have good gaps it’s because the forwards are working back and kind of squeezing them along the blue lines or in the neutral zone. While I’d like to take credit as a D corps, it’s truly a five-man connected unit, it’s a team game, and those forwards allow us to keep some of those plays in and be aggressive too. -Martinez

A couple of wins away from his third trip to the mountaintop, there aren’t many better in the league than Martinez at understanding what must happen for a successful forecheck or breakout.

The Golden Knights are delivering it in the defensive zone and bringing the heat in the attacking zone and the Game 2 goal scorer has taken notice.

As the series shifts to Florida with the Panthers in dire straights, the intensity on both ends is likely to ramp up. Vegas has followed the roadmap so far and if they can withstand the added heat the Panthers bring at home, they’ll likely be bringing a 35-pound silver alloy friend back on the plane with them.

“The Best Team” Resides In Vegas

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas)

The Vegas Golden Knights are now just two wins away from scaling the mountain and claiming the Stanley Cup. After throttling the Florida Panthers in Game 2 of the Final, the complete picture of this version of this team is coming into clear view to the entire hockey world.

That picture is of a team without weakness.

For every obstacle in their way, they have a method to clear it, and for every question asked, they have an answer.

I just feel that we have the best team, from player 1 through 20. Our depth has been a strength all year. I think it is the biggest reason why we are still here and why we beat Winnipeg, Edmonton, and Dallas and we’re ahead against Florida. -Bruce Cassidy

The depth of the Golden Knights begins at the top.

Vegas is a city filled with superstars and the Golden Knights are no different. Jack Eichel, Mark Stone, Alex Pietrangelo, Shea Theodore, Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, and the list goes on. Like the amazing array of performers on the Strip, it’s the collection of all of them that makes it special. If one takes a night off, there are plenty of others to pick up the slack.

Eichel hasn’t scored a goal in the last nine playoff games. Marchessault didn’t tally one until midway through the Edmonton series. Pietrangelo was suspended for a game. Stone took a while to get back up to speed after returning from the injury.

None of it has mattered.

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