Stanley Cup Final: Golden Knights draw first blood on Panthers with Game 1 win

The Vegas Golden Knights were too much for the Florida Panthers in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Zach Whitecloud scored through a screen for the game-winning goal as the Vegas Golden Knights defeated the Florida Panthers 5-2 in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday.

Whitecloud fired a wrist shot from the point, beating Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who couldn’t see the puck cleanly after Jonathan Marchessault blocked his vision, breaking a 2-2 tie in the third period. It was Whitecloud’s second goal of the postseason.

Florida opened the scoring in the first period when Eric Staal took a feed from Anton Lundell and circled the net for a wraparound goal on the penalty kill. Staal played in his 100th playoff game and is 17 years removed from his first Stanley Cup Final appearance, where he helped the Carolina Hurricanes to victory in 2006.

Marchessault tied the game when three Panthers defenders converged on Golden Knights forward Chandler Stephenson, who found his linemate wide open in front of the net.

Golden Knights goaltender Adin Hill made one of the best saves of the postseason, robbing Panthers forward Nick Cousins of a certain go-ahead goal in the opening minutes of the second period, sprawling while laying on the ice to make a jaw-dropping stop. Hill finished with 32 saves, while Bobrovsky made 29 for the Panthers.

Shea Theodore provided the Golden Knights with their first lead of the game, scoring through an expert screen from teammate Brett Howden. However, this lead was short-lived as Panthers forward Anthony Duclair scored with 11 seconds remaining in the second frame, banking a shot off Whitecloud from an offensive-zone faceoff.

Whitecloud scored the game-winner in an almost identical manner to Theodore’s goal, then Golden Knights captain Mark Stone notched the insurance marker with six minutes left in the final frame, picking off an errant pass from Panthers superstar Matthew Tkachuk before beating Bobrovsky clean with a laser of a wrist shot. The goal was briefly reviewed to determine if Stone knocked the puck down with a high-stick but the referees upheld the call.

Reilly Smith added an empty-net goal with one minute and 45 seconds remaining, closing out the Panthers' slim chances of a comeback.

Game 2 of the Final is set for Monday evening.

Zach Whitecloud #2 of the Vegas Golden Knights scored the game-winner in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Zach Whitecloud #2 of the Vegas Golden Knights scored the game-winner in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Panthers at Golden Knights Game 1 recap