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Moments that matter: Knights celebrate anniversary of Cup win

Updated June 13, 2024 - 11:17 am

The Golden Knights will only be the reigning Stanley Cup champions for a few more days.

That doesn’t mean the team and its fans can’t look back on the special memories that were made one year ago.

Thursday marks the anniversary of the Knights’ 9-3 victory over the Florida Panthers in Game 5 of the 2023 Stanley Cup Final, which clinched the franchise’s first championship.

The Panthers are now two wins away from lifting the Cup themselves. They hold a 2-0 series lead over the Edmonton Oilers, with Game 3 coming Thursday.

Florida was no match for the Knights last season.

Their dominant run was one for the ages and featured several moments their supporters will treasure forever.

Here are five highlights from the 2023 Stanley Cup Final that still stick out one year later:

1. The save

Adin Hill altered the course of the series with one swipe of his paddle.

The goaltender’s spectacular stick save on Panthers forward Nick Cousins in the second period of Game 1 remains one of the most important moments in the Knights’ history. It kept the score tied 1-1 and set up an eventual 5-2 win for the home side at T-Mobile Arena.

“That’s an unreal save,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “That’s a game changer. You need those saves.”

Hill’s heroics helped set the tone for the series. They also were an early sign things seemed to be trending the Knights’ way.

The save came in the same net as Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby’s incredible stop from Game 2 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final. Holtby’s robbery of right wing Alex Tuch helped set up the Capitals’ five-game series victory over the Knights.

2. Aiken’s helping hand

The best assist of the 2023 Stanley Cup Final didn’t come from a Knight or Panther.

It was from assistant equipment manager J.W. Aiken.

Captain Mark Stone broke his stick in the second period in Game 2 and needed to go to the bench to retrieve another.

Aiken grabbed one and was ready near the ice as the Knights started a counterattack.

Stone got the stick, got the puck and set up left wing Brett Howden for the team’s fourth goal in a 7-2 victory. The play chased Florida goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky from the game.

3. Eichel leaves, returns

The Knights received a scare late in Game 2.

Panthers right wing Matthew Tkachuk delivered a huge hit to center Jack Eichel just before the second intermission that sent Eichel took the locker room. It was unclear whether the Knights’ leading scorer would be able to return.

He did. And he didn’t take long to make an impact.

Eichel came back for the third period and set up right wing Jonathan Marchessault’s goal 2:10 into the frame. The Knights cruised from there to take a 2-0 series lead.

“It’s kind of on me. I didn’t see him,” Eichel said of the hit. “I fell and tripped and he’s trying to finish a check there. Got to be aware of it and keep your head up.”

Eichel finished his first playoff run with an NHL-leading 26 points. He became the second U.S.-born skater to lead the league in postseason scoring outright since 1943-44.

4. Stone, Stephenson dominate Game 4

The Knights slipped in Game 3, losing 3-2 in overtime after allowing Florida to score a game-tying goal with 2:13 remaining in regulation.

Two of their best players made sure the series didn’t even up in Game 4.

Center Chandler Stephenson scored twice in the Knights’ 3-2 victory, with Stone providing the assist both times. That put the team one win away from its ultimate goal.

The game was an example of the incredible chemistry the two built throughout their four seasons together to that point. Stephenson’s speed opened up space for Stone on the ice.

Stone’s smarts and passing prowess helped Stephenson’s offensive game reach new heights.

The two took over at the right time against the Panthers to push the Knights to the brink of a title.

5. Game 5

The atmosphere was incredible in the beginning. It only got wilder as the night went on.

Cassidy’s decision to start five of the team’s remaining six original players got a loud response from the T-Mobile Arena crowd before puck drop. The fans got even crazier after Stone opened the scoring with a short-handed goal with 8:08 left in the first period. He scored twice more to become the fourth player in NHL history with a hat trick in a Cup-clinching game.

He wasn’t the only one putting the puck in the net. The Knights scored six times before the second period was done, erasing any doubt as to whether the series would continue.

The game finished with players mobbing Hill after a 9-3 victory. Marchessault received the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP after leading the league with 13 goals in the postseason. Then Stone skated to commissioner Gary Bettman to lift the 35-pound silver trophy the team worked so hard to get.

“A lot of long hours,” said Stone, who scored 24 points in the playoffs after returning from his second back surgery in less than a year. “A hard couple of years health-wise. We’ve got a lot of warriors and guys who wear their heart on their sleeve, to give everything they have to play for this organization, for this city.”

Contact Danny Webster at dwebster@reviewjournal.com. Follow @DannyWebster21 on X.

More Golden Knights: Follow at reviewjournal.com/GoldenKnights and @GoldenEdgeRJ on X.

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