SUNRISE — Two nights after rallying from behind to win Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final in overtime, the Florida Panthers were back on home ice Saturday — trying to even up the series against the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Knights were able to take control of the night early, jumping out to a three-goal lead halfway through the game — which was very reminiscent of how they started their 7-2 win back in Game 2.
Despite trailing 3-0, the Cardiac Cats didn’t go down without a fight, clawing back to make it a one-goal game early into the third. Unfortunately for Florida, their rally ended up falling short. The Knights held on to win 3-2 — taking a 3-1 series back to Vegas, with a chance to win the Cup on home ice this coming Tuesday.
Under two minutes after the first drop of the puck, the Knights were able to get the fast jump in tonight’s game off a bad error from the Panthers.
With Vegas still controlling the puck in the neutral zone, some Panthers, including defenseman Aaron Ekblad went to the bench for a line change. The Knights hit the open seam through the middle of the ice — springing Chandler Stephenson in on a breakaway.
Stepehnson walked in alone on Sergei Bobrovsky and slipped his shot five-hole, putting Vegas up 1-0 just 1:39 into the game.
Despite the early mistake, the Panthers were able to minimize the damage to just that. After 20 the Knights took a 1-0 lead into the break.
Another note, the two sides played a completely clean brand of hockey in the first — at least in the officials minds. Surprisingly no penalties were called in the period. Game 3 had 11 penalties called.
The first power play in the game went to the Knights at the 2:52 mark of the second period. Marc Staal went to the box for tripping Mark Stone, who had knocked Staal’s stick out of his hands just seconds before the trip was called.
The Knights, who had scored two power play goals per game in Games 1-3, had a chance to get their red hot power play on the board again tonight.
Florida played their first kill of the night well. They adjusted their pk setup well to not give Vegas’ far-side wingers a lane to get the puck and walk in from the circles — which they’ve been extremely good at in this series.
Not getting the power play goal didn’t affect the Knights however. At the mark, Chandler Stephenson would get his second goal of the night off a beautifully placed shot above Sergei Bobrovsky — putting Vegas up 2-0.
Minutes after Stephenson’s second goal, William Karlsson put away a rebound — giving the Knights a 3-0 lead just after the midway point of the game.
It felt like the wheels were falling off the wagon for the Panthers. Down three goals with no momentum going the other way. Sometimes you need just one shot, or bounce, to get you back into the game.
Facing a three-goal hole before the final intermission, Florida got their bounce and lifeline in.
Brandon Montour floated a non-threatening shot towards the Knights goal which hit two bodies in front before sneaking past Adin Hill. Montour’s eighth goal of the playoffs cut the Knights lead to two and got Florida back into the game.
Vegas would take a 3-1 lead into the final break of regulation.
With a two-goal game entering the third, the next goal would be monumental in the tide of this game.
Florida would be the one to get the pivotal next goal — inching them closer to the equalizr while also preventing a three-goal Vegas lead.
Brandon Montour drove the net after picking up a pass from Anton Lundell in the zone. Montour dipped his shoulder and sent a backhand pass across the crease, hitting Sasha Barkov in stride.
The Panthers captain fired a one-timer past Hill, cutting the once three-goal deficit to just one.
Florida not only got themselves back into the game — they got the home crowd back in it as well.
After the Panthers got the early goal to start the third, the pressure was on. Florida piled on the chances, pressing for the crucial tying goal.
Florida would keep that pressure going until the final seconds of the game.
With 17.4 seconds remaining in the game, Knights defenseman Alex Pietreangelo took a delay of game penalty in an attempt to clear the zone.
Florida would have a 6-on-4 man-advantage in the dying seconds of the game.
The Panthers swarmed the crease in a last ditch effort to tie the game — but Adin Hill and the Knights held on to win 3-2 despite a valiant comeback effort by the Panthers.
The Knights leave South Florida with a 3-1 series lead. They can win the Stanley Cup on Tuesday in Vegas.