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Knights pound Panthers, take 2-0 lead in Stanley Cup Final

Updated June 5, 2023 - 9:41 pm

The Golden Knights’ fans made their voices loud and clear as Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final wound down Monday.

“We want the Cup! We want the Cup!”

If the Knights keep playing like this, they just might get it.

Through two games against the Florida Panthers, the team has received historic depth scoring, great goaltending and improved special-teams play. That’s gotten the Knights closer to their ultimate goal than ever before.

They dominated in all phases to win 7-2 in front of an announced crowd of 18,561 at T-Mobile Arena to take a 2-0 series lead. In their only other Stanley Cup Final appearance, in 2018, the Knights won only Game 1 in a 4-1 series loss to Washington.

The Knights, thanks to goals from five different players Monday and points from 12, matched their season high for goals and tied their franchise record for a playoff game.

“(Our depth) is the biggest reason we are still here, why we beat Winnipeg, Edmonton, Dallas and why we’re ahead against Florida,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “I just feel that we have the best team from player one through 20. That’s just how I feel.”

Cassidy has often referred to his club as “imperfect” during this run. Flawed but resilient.

The Knights didn’t look it Monday.

There was barely a nit to pick thanks to another impressive performance up and down the lineup. All 18 skaters were on the ice for an even-strength goal. The Knights have nine goal scorers through two games of the final, the most by a team in NHL history.

They also scored twice on the power play and went 4-for-4 on the kill while getting 29 saves from Adin Hill.

It was all too much for the Panthers to handle.

Left wing Brett Howden scored off the rush 7:10 into the second period to put the Knights up 4-0 thanks to a great pass from captain Mark Stone, who broke his stick earlier in the sequence before picking up another one from the bench. That chased goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky after 13 shots faced and forced backup Alex Lyon into the net.

It was Bobrovsky’s seventh goal allowed in 86:56 in the series. He allowed six in 321:03 during the Eastern Conference Final.

The Knights’ offense is just a different animal. They chased their opponent’s starter for the fifth time in 12 games.

The Knights got production from some usual spots in Game 2, as right wing Jonathan Marchessault scored twice against his former team. Marchessault extended his point streak to seven games, matching the franchise record in the playoffs. He has a team-leading 12 goals in 19 games this postseason and has scored in six of his last seven.

“He’s a true goal scorer,” defenseman Alec Martinez said. “He’s one hell of a talent.”

Center Jack Eichel recorded two assists despite briefly leaving the game after an open-ice collision with right wing Matthew Tkachuk in the second period. Eichel — who called it a “clean check” by Tkachuk — became the seventh player in the NHL’s modern era (since 1943-44) to record multiple points in each of his first two games in the Stanley Cup Final.

His second assist came on his first shift following the hit.

“I mean, he’s unbelievable, right?” Marchessault said. “That’s the resiliency that we have in that locker room.”

The Knights also got scoring from other sources.

Martinez got the team’s second goal with 2:01 left in the first period. It was his first of the playoffs, giving the Knights 18 goal scorers this postseason. That’s tied with Seattle for the most in the NHL.

Center Nicolas Roy added a goal from the fourth line 2:59 into the second to put the Knights up 3-0.

That was more than enough run support for Hill, who improved to 9-3 in his first playoff run. The 27-year-old’s .937 save percentage is the highest in the NHL among starters this postseason. The Panthers couldn’t get to him in the first two periods before center Anton Lundell and Tkachuk scored in the third.

The Knights still answered back by adding on two more goals from right wing Michael Amadio and a second from Howden.

They’re now just two wins away from giving their ravenous fans what they want. The Knights have never lost a series after taking a 2-0 lead, and are playing a team that’s never won at T-Mobile Arena.

Teams that win the first two games of the final have an overall record of 48-5.

“It was a great effort,” Eichel said. “(Hill) made some big saves. We got some timely goals at good points in the game. … The group did a good job.”

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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