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Golden Knights on brink of 1st Stanley Cup title after holding off Panthers in Game 4

With Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals on the clock, helmets, gloves, sticks and plastic rats littered the ice, resulting in an emotional showdown in the final seconds.

Despite all the punches, shoves and shoves that piled up during the fight, none of it changed the outcome; The Vegas Golden Knights are on the verge of winning their first Stanley Cup title.

Vegas beat the Florida Panthers 3-2 on Saturday night, holding off a rally that ended with one final shot and a big save at the end to take a 3-1 series lead in the Cup final.

“Obviously, it was a fight until the last second,” Vegas forward Nicholas Roy said. “They got pushed back there. We knew they would. They were doing all those series. But it sure is nice to get that one.”

The Golden Knights can win the NHL championship on home ice Tuesday night.

“We played really well at home here in the playoffs, so you have to feel good coming home 3-1,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said.

Getting to this point wasn’t easy.

Chandler Stevenson scored twice for the visiting Golden Knights and William Karlsson broke through to end his streak and take a 3-0 lead. The Panthers scored twice, a goal by Brandon Montour late in the second period and Alexander Barkov’s first goal early in the third.

But their rally fizzled and left Florida, the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed and final playoff seed, on the brink of this improbable finish.

“We’ve earned the right to play our best hockey,” Panthers coach Paul Morris said. “Where we have been strongest is at the most critical moment. I think you’ll see that.”

Down 2-1 in the series, Sergey Bobrovsky again nearly kept the Panthers in check, stopping 28 of the 31 shots he faced and allowing goals when his teammates left him out to dry. At the other end of the ice, hard-working goaltender Adin Hill made 29 saves for his 10th win since coming on midway through the second period.

“It’s a credit to him that he was ready when he got there a few series ago,” Pietrangelo said. “You should be happy for him.”

The Golden Knights need one more game to win their sixth straight championship in Las Vegas, fulfilling owner Bill Foley’s goal of winning the Stanley Cup in that span. They reached the finals in their inaugural season in 2017-18 before losing to Washington in five games.

Vegas is more talented and certainly more prepared to appear in the spotlight this time around. Stevenson, who beat them five years ago as a member of the Capitals, and Hill were trade acquisitions, along with first-line center Jack Eichel and senior Mark Stone, who had two assists in Game 4.

Several original Knights players also helped them take the penultimate step to the top of the hockey mountain. Jonathan Marchesso assisted on Carlson’s goal to make it 3-0, his 24th point, tied for the playoff lead.

Then the Panthers made it interesting. Montour scored off a right skate by Braden McNabb and then off the right skate of Shay Theodore and past Hill with 3:51 left in the second period and a perfect pass from behind the net to Barkov with 3:50 left. third.

With leading scorer Matthew Tkachuk missing for several shifts, Florida continued to buzz around Hill and got a few more big stops from Bobrovsky to keep the pressure on. A 17.4 second, six-on-four lead as veteran Vegas defenseman Alex Pietrangelo put the puck on the glass created the final few chances but missed the team’s first power-play goal of the series.

It also sparked a scrimmage that resulted in six penalties, including two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and two misconducts.

“I felt my helmet come off and they had six guys on the ice, we had four, so get in there a little bit and try to help your teammates,” said Hill, who had several shots in the scrimmage. . “I don’t know if there’s really a message to send, we’re just getting ready [Game 5] Tuesday.”

It will be a last gasp for the Panthers, who will have to repeat their opening round 3-1 loss to Boston to keep Vegas from winning it all.

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