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Knights pound Panthers, go up 2-0 in Stanley Cup Final

The Vegas Golden Knights head to Sunrise, Fla., for Games 3 and 4 of the Stanley Cup Final with a 2-0 edge over the Florida Panthers in the best-of-seven series after a dominating 7-2 victory on Monday night. Perhaps more important, leading scorer Jack Eichel also will be making the trip.

With Vegas holding a 4-0 lead late in the second period, Eichel took a crunching, shoulder-to-shoulder hit from Matthew Tkachuk near the blue line while skating with the puck out of his own end. The force of the hit flattened Eichel on his back and sent his helmet flying.

Eichel, hunched over and favoring his right shoulder, immediately skated to the locker room as Vegas fans held their collectives breaths. After all, Eichel underwent neck disk replacement surgery back in November 2021. However, Eichel was back on the bench for the start of the third period and garnered his second assist on the game with a pass to Jonathan Marchessault on his next shift to increase Vegas’ lead to 5-1.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Eichel said with a smile afterward. “I kind of toe-picked a little bit. I didn’t really see him until the last minute. It’s a clean hit. It’s a hard collision. It’s a collision game and you get back up and you keep playing.” Tkachuk said, “Doesn’t matter who you are, don’t go through the middle of the ice with your head down or you’re going to get hit.”

Vegas captain Mark Stone said Eichel’s return fired up the Golden Knights, who scored three goals in the third period for the second straight game. “It was a big hit,” Stone said. “I think they were trying to change momentum. Just to see him come back and skate out of the tunnel for the third period, that’s a statement, right? You can take shots at him, you can take shots at any one of us, (but) we’re going to keep coming at you.”

Marchessault logged two goals and an assist and Brett Howden also scored twice as for the Golden Knights. Vegas has scored 12 goals in the first two games, tying the Stanley Cup Final record for most goals in the first two games, a mark last accomplished by the New York Islanders in 1982 against the Vancouver Canucks. “It’s been a ton of fun,” Eichel, who has a team-best 22 postseason points, said of his first playoff experience in eight NHL seasons. “Enjoying it with these guys in the locker room. I’m obviously new to it. It’s been a lot of fun.”

Eichel leads all NHL players with 16 assists in the 2023 postseason.

Marchessault notched his third multi-goal game of the playoffs, giving him a team-high 12 postseason goals, all in the past 12 games. Michael Amadio had a goal and an assist, Eichel and Chandler Stephenson each had two assists and Alec Martinez and Nicolas Roy also scored for Vegas. Adin Hill finished with 29 saves. Anton Lundell and Tkachuk scored for Florida. Sergei Bobrovsky was pulled at the 7:10 mark of the second period after stopping just nine of 13 shots. Alex Lyon took over and made 12 saves. “We could be a little better in front of our goaltender,” Florida coach Paul Maurice said. “He has been unbelievable for us. I got him out to keep him rested.”

Vegas took a 1-0 lead at 7:05 of the first period on a power-play goal by Marchessault.

Martinez made it 2-0 at 17:59 of the opening period when he roofed a wrist shot from the left faceoff dot for his first goal of the playoffs. Roy extended the lead early in the second period after picking up the puck in the left corner. Left uncovered, he skated in and rifled a wrist shot off the near post and in for his second goal of the playoffs. Howden increased the lead to 4-0 at the 7:10 mark of the middle period. He broke down the slot and took a pass from Stone and then backhanded a shot past Bobrovsky, who was then replaced by Lyon.

Florida cut the deficit to 4-1 just 14 seconds into the third period when Lundell’s shot caromed in off the shin guard of Martinez. But Marchessault, left wide open in the slot, scored his second goal of the night less than two minutes later off an assist from the left boards from Eichel.

Amadio increased the lead to 6-1 midway through the final period off a nice setup from William Karlsson. Tkachuk scored his 10th goal of the playoffs a little over two minutes later to make it 6-2 when he snapped in a wrist shot from the left circle. Howden finished the scoring, netting his second goal of the night with 2:08 left.

Game 3 is scheduled for Thursday. –Field Level Media


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