While there are no NHL games today, the hockey world is still reacting to Saturday night’s Stanley Cup Finals classic with the Vegas Golden Knights now win shy of their first championship. After letting an opportunity to bury the Florida Panthers slip away in Game 3, the Golden Knights responded with an early 3-0 lead in Game 4 and walked away with a 3-2 victory.
Realistically, the Panthers were on the verge of being shut out until a lucky bounce got them on the board in the second period. Then, captain Aleksander Barkov beat Adin Hill with a lucky shot at the beginning of the third period to give the team some life. Ultimately, there would be no comeback on this night, so the Panthers took out their frustrations after the final buzzer, accumulating 26 penalty minutes.
The series returns to Sin City on Tuesday night, with the Golden Knights on the verge of capturing their first Stanley Cup championship. Now, the Panthers have no choice but to play disciplined hockey and win the next three games or become a part of history as the team Vegas beat for their first title.
Golden Knights bend, don’t break, during a hectic third period
In Game 3, the Golden Knights lost focus in the third period, allowing the Panthers to tie and win the contest in overtime. Whether the players were thinking about hoisting the Stanley Cup or taking their opponents lightly, their lapses gave Florida a new lease on life and a chance to even the series in this pivotal Game 4.
Interestingly, the Golden Knights put a bad 25 minutes stretch of play behind them and came out to silence the FLA Live Arena crowd. After Chandler Stephenson scored just 1:09 into the game, it looked like Vegas would run away with this game. Furthermore, the two teams would head into intermission tied with 12 shots a piece. However, the Golden Knights were ahead on the scoreboard.
Eventually, Stephenson would strike again before William Karlsson extended the lead to 3-0. However, the Panthers mounted a comeback thanks to a lucky bounce and a snipe from their captain. Despite being outshot (12-8) and outplayed for most of the third period, the Golden Knights buckled down and held the fort, denying the Panthers a chance to even the series.
Realistically, many fans have found this series boring, with stellar defensive plays overshadowed by brawls and reckless penalties. Interestingly, Vegas knows what to expect from Florida after four games and should understand how difficult securing the fourth win is. To win the Stanley Cup, the Golden Knights must come out with their best performance of the playoffs if they want to avoid another trip to South Florida.
Matthew Tkachuk playing hurt leaves the Panthers shorthanded
When the Stanley Cup Final is over, we may or may not find out what is wrong with Matthew Tkachuk. However, until then, the Panthers’ hero will suffer through whatever aliment bothers him, trying to catch lightning in a bottle.
Despite Sergei Bobrovsky’s heroic performances, Tkachuk is why Florida is in the Stanley Cup Final. However, playing with what appears to be a shoulder injury drastically altered his ice time in Game 4, and the Panthers appear lifeless without him. Statistically, he played 16:40 but stayed on the ice for the final five minutes to bump up his totals. Surprisingly, he registered four shots, but they weren’t overly dangerous because, as the announcers pointed out in the warm-up, he could barely shoot.
Although Barkov finally scored in the Stanley Cup Final, the Panthers needed even more from their captain since their heart and soul player was hurting and won’t be able to save the series. Ultimately, Florida lost the mojo they built up in the three previous rounds when Tkachuk went down.
Vegas is performing a MasterClass in Stanley Cup Final
They say that defense wins championships, and the Golden Knights have done everything they can in their zone to limit the Panthers’ opportunities. In Game 4, Vegas blocked 30 shots, their second consecutive contest over 30, signaling that every player in a Golden Knights jersey understands the need to sacrifice their bodies to win. Even though each club finished the game with 31 shots apiece, Vegas ensured that Florida didn’t get to Hill, who could have faced 61 shots if every puck found its way to him.
Furthermore, the Golden Knights took one penalty during the contest, with just 17 seconds to go, when Alex Pietrangelo shot the puck out of play. After being burnt several times by previous teams with power-play opportunities, Vegas went into Game 4 understanding the importance of staying out of the box. Considering the Panthers have yet to score a power-play goal in the series, one mistake could give them the one opportunity they have been waiting for the entire series.
Even though the Golden Knights are up 3-1 in the series, they have yet to fall into the trap laid out by the Panthers to play physical hockey, engaging in extracurricular activities after the whistles. Ultimately, remaining disciplined and focused on playing their game has given them this commanding lead in the matchup, which is 60 minutes from being over.