Sat, 30 Sep 2023

Panthers desperate to shift momentum vs. Golden Knights

Field Level Media
08 Jun 2023, 06:19 GMT+10

Being down a pair of games in a playoff series while having to author a comeback is not new to the Florida Panthers

That experience will serve as something of a life preserver, even as the stakes are raised in the Stanley Cup Final, as the Panthers prepare to host the Vegas Golden Knights for Game 3 at Sunrise, Fla., on Thursday.

Vegas holds a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series and outscored the Panthers by a combined 12-4 while winning the first two games at home.

"We've had three really tough series," Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov said. "Boston (in the first round) is a good example. We were down (3-1), we started playing a little better and found a way to come back. Same thing here. We've just got to work a little harder and work a little smarter."

Teams that win the first two games of a best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final have a 48-5 series record (90.6 percent). Teams which win the first two games on home ice have a 38-3 mark (92.7 percent).

The Panthers were swept by the Colorado Avalanche in their other trip to the Stanley Cup Final, back in 1996.

Florida holds a 4-3 home record in this year's playoffs, with two of those defeats in the Boston series, which the Panthers won in seven games.

To turn their fortunes, the Panthers will focus on doing a much better job defending while also maintaining their discipline. Vegas has four power-play goals in 11 chances over the first two games.

"We feel that our best hockey is still ahead of us," Florida coach Paul Maurice said. "We certainly haven't controlled the game at times, but in the first game we didn't feel it was controlled against us either."

Maurice expects defenseman Radko Gudas, who missed most of Game 2, to play Thursday. He also will have Sergei Bobrovsky in goal. Bobrovsky was pulled in Game 2 after surrendering four goals.

The Golden Knights sport a 6-2 road record in the playoffs and have been a machine on offense.

The 12 goals scored in the first two games of the series match the NHL record, set by the 1932 Toronto Maple Leafs, 1936 Detroit Red Wings, 1973 Montreal Canadiens, and 1981 and 1982 New York Islanders.

Nine Vegas skaters have scored a goal already in the series, an NHL record, and 12 players recorded at least one point in the Game 2 victory.

"We know we have depth, we know we roll four lines, get a good forecheck, we'll get rewarded," said Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault, who is riding a three-game goal streak and seven-game point streak.

It is not just the Vegas collection of forwards doing the damage. While holding Florida's skaters in check, a trio of Golden Knights defensemen also have lit the lamp: Alec Martinez, Zach Whitecloud and Shea Theodore.

Though the course of the playoffs, 18 players have scored for Vegas.

"I sound like a broken record, but this time of year you need to have scoring by committee, you need to have that scoring depth throughout your lineup," said Martinez, who won the Stanley Cup with the Los Angeles Kings in 2012 and 2014. "You can't just rely on one, two lines. It's something you need, and fortunately, we've been able to get that."

The Golden Knights now are in search of the right mindset to understand their task is not complete, while sitting just two wins shy of the first championship in franchise history.

"There's a balance of living in the moment and enjoying it. It only comes around so often," Golden Knights defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "As a group, the way we're playing together, not knowing every night who is going to be the hero, is a fun way to play hockey."

--Field Level Media

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