Here are three takeaways from the Golden Knights’ 7-2 win over the Florida Panthers on Monday in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final at T-Mobile Arena:
1. Flipping the script
The past two trips to the Stanley Cup playoffs for the Knights ended when a goaltender got in their heads.
Dallas journeyman Anton Khudobin turned into a wall during the 2020 bubble after Vancouver’s Thatcher Demko nearly knocked out the Knights in the previous round. In 2021, it was Montreal’s Carey Price who found the fountain of youth in the semifinal round.
Not this time.
The Knights are the team with the hot goaltender, as Adin Hill again outdueled Florida’s two-time Vezina Trophy winner, Sergei Bobrovsky.
Bobrovsky entered the series with an 11-2 record along with a 2.21 goals-against average and .935 save percentage in the playoffs. But for the second straight game, the Knights touched him up for four goals.
After Brett Howden scored to put the Knights ahead 4-0 at 7:10 of the second period, Bobrovsky was pulled in favor of Alex Lyon. Bobrovsky, who didn’t start the first three games of the playoffs after struggling during the regular season, has allowed eight goals on 46 shots in the series.
Meanwhile, Hill (29 saves) continued to bolster his case to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the postseason MVP.
His stop on Carter Verhaeghe’s breakaway early in the first period ignited the announced crowd of 18,561. He also made a snazzy glove save on Brandon Montour during a second-period power play.
Both of Florida’s goals came in the third period with the outcome decided.
2. Barbashev makes impact
The acquisition of winger Ivan Barbashev at the trade deadline in February wasn’t flashy. And it cost the Knights another one of their first-round picks.
But it’s paying dividends now.
Barbashev’s Stanley Cup experience with St. Louis in 2019 is invaluable at this stage of the playoffs. His puck-retrieval skills and willingness to do a large portion of the dirty work also continues to create room for linemates Jack Eichel and Jonathan Marchessault.
After assisting on defenseman Alec Martinez’s goal in the first period that gave the Knights a 2-0 advantage, Barbashev is tied for third in scoring with 17 points in 19 games.
He nearly added a goal in the second period after a spectacular individual effort that ended with him crashing into the Panthers’ net.
Barbashev also dished out a punishing hit during the first period that knocked Florida defenseman Radko Gudas out of the game with an undisclosed injury, and came to Eichel’s defense late in the second period after he was rocked by an open-ice hit from Florida’s Matthew Tkachuk.
3. Undisciplined Panthers
Most of the talk will be about Tkachuk’s heavy hit on Eichel in the second period, which actually appeared to be clean.
But the Panthers continued to toe the line between dirty and playing hard.
Gudas got the worst of his collision in the first period with Barbashev after he tried to take a run at the Knights forward in the neutral zone. And Marchessault appeared to be a target, as he was cross-checked by Ryan Lomberg in the first period, then made the Panthers pay with a power-play goal to open the scoring. Marchessault also took a high stick to the back of the head from Montour in the first period.
The Knights went 2-for-4 on the power play.
Florida, the second-most penalized team in the NHL during the regular season, finished with 14 penalties for 84 minutes. By the final buzzer, the Panthers had 11 skaters available after a handful of 10-minute misconducts, including two for Tkachuk.