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Vegas Golden Knights win Stanley Cup: 4 takeaways from Game 5 win over Florida Panthers

On Tuesday night, the Vegas Golden Knights tied the record as the second-fastest NHL expansion team to win the Stanley Cup, beating the Florida Panthers 9-3 in Game 5 in front of an energetic crowd at T-Mobile Arena. Considering the Golden Knights had a chance to win the silver chalice in their first season, 2018, they didn’t let the opportunity escape them in 2023. 

Realistically, Vegas should have swept this series but eased up in Game 3, allowing Florida to earn a much-needed victory. After returning home with a commanding 3-1 series lead, the Golden Knights looked nervous at the start of the contest. However, their captain Mark Stone scored a shorthanded goal, and the rest, as they say, is history. 

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Although the Panthers put some doubt in the minds of thousands, Vegas would not lose Game 5 and kept running up the score, ending Florida’s Cinderella Run. Historically, the Golden Knights became the 21st team to win the Stanley Cup since the NHL took sole possession of the trophy in 1927.

Florida Panthers had no chance without Matthew Tkachuk

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Vegas Golden Knights at Florida Panthers
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Shortly after warmups began for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final, news broke that Panthers’ star Matthew Tkachuk would not be in the lineup. Considering he’s been the driving force behind Florida’s march to the Final, it was clear that the team was different without him. 

Whether mixing it up in front of the net or haunting goalies’ nightmares with backbreaking goals, Tkachuk is the club’s unofficial leader. Although the team may never discuss the extent of his “upper-body” injury, it’s clear that the ailment is significant because no one wants to miss a game, let alone in the Stanley Cup Final. 

Even though Florida had all the momentum in the first few minutes of Game 5, once Golden Knights’ captain Stone scored a shorthanded goal, the contest and series were over. Ultimately, without Tkachuk in the lineup, Vegas could focus more on playing their own game, with their opponents’ best skater sitting in the press box. 

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Panthers must evaluate power play after horrendous Stanley Cup Final

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Vegas Golden Knights at Florida Panthers
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

After eliminating the best regular season team of all time in the first round, the Boston Bruins, the Panthers rolled through the Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes in the preceding matchups. During each of those series, the Panthers collected power play goals, which altered the outcomes. 

Heading into the Stanley Cup Final, the Panthers were clicking at 28% on the man advantage. Unfortunately, their success was short-lived as the team finished this five-game series without a goal, going 0-for-14 on the powerplay. Considering how aggressive this series has been, the Golden Knights took only two penalties in Games 4 and 5, and the Panthers never got the opportunity to recapture lost magic. 

Additionally, to add insult to injury, Game 5’s first goal was shorthanded, meaning in a must-win situation, the Panthers let their power play hurt them in the worse possible way. 

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Golden Knights stuff Conn Smythe Trophy ballot box

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Florida Panthers at Vegas Golden Knights
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into the Stanley Cup Final, the Golden Knights’ betting favorite to win the Conn Smythe Trophy was Jack Eichel. Although the former second-overall pick in 2015 wasn’t scoring in bunches, he played a complete game at both ends of the ice. 

Interestingly, as the Final progressed, Jonathan Marchessault started to rack up goals, and Adin Hill continued to make highlight-reel saves to join the playoff MVP conversation. Then, in a chance to win the Stanley Cup on home ice in Game 5, Vegas’ captain Stone goes out to score a hat trick to guarantee he’d be hoisting professional sports’ oldest trophy at the end of the night. 

Considering only 18 PHWA members vote for the Conn Smythe Trophy, their task could not be more straightforward since most of the Golden Knights roster deserves recognition. Even though at least five skaters deserved the honor this year, ultimately, the writers made the best choice, awarding the trophy to Marchessault, who finished the playoffs with 13 goals (1st), 11 assists (5th), and 25 points (T-1st). 

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Vegas Golden Knights end 2023 NHL season with a bang

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Florida Panthers at Vegas Golden Knights
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Historically, the most goals scored in a Stanley Cup-clinching game was eight, achieved by the 1991 Pittsburgh Penguins, who beat the Minnesota North Stars 8-0 in Game 6 to win their first championship. Until Tuesday night, their record had remained unmatched until the Golden Knights tallied nine goals in a 9-3 thrashing of the Panthers.

Even though Game 5 was only 2-0 after the first period, the Panthers made it 2-1 before the Golden Knights erupted for five straight goals to put the contest out of reach. As the clock clicked down, Vegas never eased up, scoring an additional three goals in the third period, with Stone finishing the night with a hat trick. 

Ultimately, the Golden Knights were Stanley Cup contenders from opening night and didn’t disappoint on Tuesday evening in their second chance at winning the game’s top prize. Realistically, it took an entire team to reach 16 wins, and thanks to a carefully constructed roster of superstars and passionate players, Vegas gave the fans one of the most dominant performances in Stanley Cup Final history. 

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