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Panthers Hope What Happened In Vegas …

The Vegas Golden Knights won a close one in the series opener and dominated the second as the favorite in the NHL betting lines to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final against the Florida Panthers.

The Golden Knights will take their show on the road – where they are 6-2 in the playoffs – when they visit Sunrise, Fla., for Game 3 on Thursday night. The Panthers must heal their psyche after dropping the series opener 5-2 before being blown out 7-2 on Monday.

Panthers Hope What Happened In Vegas …
Jack Eichel #9 of the Vegas Golden Knights - Ethan Miller/Getty Images/AFP

They’re halfway there and hopefully they’re thinking about that a little bit as they’re coming to Florida,” Panthers forward Matthew Tkachuk told reporters. “I think that could work in our favor, but we definitely have to prepare and give everything in this next one and just get a little bit of momentum back.”

Jonathan Marchessault scored twice, including the first goal of the game, and defenseman Alec Martinez made it 2-0 late in the opening period on Monday. Vegas is 7-0 when leading after the first period in the postseason.


The Golden Knights are currently -550 in the odds to win the Stanley Cup and the Panthers are +425.

Punishing The Panthers

Marchessault signed a two-year contract as a free agent with the Panthers in 2016, and immediately rewarded them with a team-high 30 goals.

That was the only season the winger spent in Florida, though, as he was left unprotected in the expansion draft and Vegas scooped him up. The move was said to be a gift of sorts for the Golden Knights acquiring forward Reilly Smith and his five-year, $25 million extension as a cost-cutting measure for the Panthers. Florida GM Dale Tallon protected defensemen Alex Petrovic and Mark Pysyk instead.

Marchessault went on to sign a six-year extension worth a total of $30 million and boasts 150 goals in 432 regular-season games with Vegas along with 33 goals in 85 playoff games. Smith has 124 goals in 399 games with the Knights – 17 in 85 postseason contests.

It’s how we built our organization, with trades like that,” Marchessault told ESPN.com. “We’ve done good things here and we’re not going to be satisfied with nothing else than winning it all. That’s why we’re still here.”

Marchessault is the current favorite (even) in the Las Vegas hockey odds to win the Conn Smythe Trophy with 12 goals and nine assists in the playoffs and four points in the finals.

Marchy’s a winner. He’s always been,” Vegas forward Nicholas Roy told reporters.”When we need a big goal or a big moment, he’s always been there, and he’s a big leader for us. We’re lucky to have him, for sure.”

Eichel Recovers Quickly

Vegas top scorer Jack Eichel went straight to the locker room after taking a huge hit from Tkachuk in the second period Monday, but calmed plenty of nerves by returning for the third and setting up Marchessault’s second goal.

The big worry was that the hit, which was made worse by Eichel losing balance on his left skate and dipping his head, re-injured his surgically reconstructed neck.


Eichel and Golden Knights coach Bruce Cassidy both called it a clean hit.

I just came in here and regrouped,” Eichel told reporters. “It was definitely a big collision. I got my wits back about me and realized I was fine.”

Eichel is tied with Tkachuk for the second-most points in the playoffs (22) – still two behind Dallas forward Roope Hintz.

The biggest injury in Monday’s game ended up being Florida defenseman Radko Gudas, who left after playing just 2:11 in the first period with an apparent head injury from a hit by Ivan Barbashev. Florida used seven defensemen in Game 2 as Casey Fitzgerald joined the lineup, but Gudas has been a very important force. There was no update on his status after the game.

Hill Climbing; Bob Pulled

Vegas goalie Adin Hill was not expected to be in net during the playoffs.

The Golden Knights acquired two-time Stanley Cup.winner Jonathan Quick at the trade deadline and Laurent Brossoit was named the starter in the first playoff series against Winnipeg.

But when Brossoit was injured in Game 3 of the second round against the Edmonton Oilers, Hill got the call over Quick. The 27-year-old has not disappointed, going 9-3 with a .937 save percentage and 2.06 goals-against average – including an amazing stick save in Game 1 vs. Florida to preserve the victory.

I’m just kind of living in the moment,” Hill told reporters. “It’s been awesome to be part of this journey with this team.”

Hill is tied with Eichel at +450 in the nhl futures odds to win the Conn Smythe. Like Brossoit and Quick, Hill is an unrestricted free agent after the season.

Meanwhile, Panthers netminder Sergei Bobrovsky was pulled in the second period of Game 2 after allowing four goals on 13 shots. Bobrovsky gave up 10 goals in five games of the second round against Toronto, six in four versus Carolina and has allowed eight in 86:56 of this series.

We can be a little better in front of our goaltender,” Maurice told reporters. “He’s been unbelievable for us, so I got him out to keep him rested.”

Florida is currently set as the favorite for Game 3 in the NHL odds. The over is 2-0 in the series after going 0-2 in the two matchups during the regular season.


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