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Golden Knights use early blitz to defeat Panthers, take commanding series lead

Jonathan Marchesso scored twice to start an early blitz that chased the NHL’s hottest postseason goaltender and the Vegas Golden Knights clinched the Stanley Cup Final with a 7-2 Game 2 victory over the Florida Panthers on Monday night.

Adin Hill continued his stellar play in net, making 29 saves for the Golden Knights, who took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

“I think our depth has been strong all year,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “That’s the biggest reason we’re still here, why we beat Winnipeg, Edmonton, Dallas. I just feel like we have the best team between the first and 20 players.”

Marcheso had another assist to finish with three points. His 12 postseason goals set a Golden Knights record, with all coming after the first period. The only player to see more in the opening round was Pavel Bure, who scored 13 goals for Vancouver in 1994.

Brett Howden scored twice for the Knights, who also got goals from Alec Martinez, Nicholas Roy and Michael Amadio. Six players had at least two points for Vegas, all 18 Knights skaters were on the ice for even goals, and their nine goals in the first two games is a Stanley Cup Finals record. The Knights’ seven goals tied the playoff lead.

It was too much for Panthers goaltender Sergey Bobrovsky, who was ejected with 7:10 left in the second period for a 4-0 deficit. The Knights were chasing an opposing goaltender for the fifth time in 12 games.

Bobrovsky, a two-time Vezina Trophy winner, led Florida to the Eastern Conference playoffs. Coming into the Stanley Cup Final, he had won 11 of his last 12 starts with a 1.95 goals-against average and .942 save percentage during that stretch. But he allowed eight goals in 87 minutes against Vegas for a 5.52 GAA and .826 save percentage in the series.

“We can be a little better in front of our goaltender,” Panthers coach Paul Morris said. “I took him out to rest.”

Matthew Tkachuk and Anton Lundell scored for Florida.

Teams that lead 2-0 in the Stanley Cup Final are 31-3 in the expansion era. The Panthers will look to turn history around starting with Game 3 on Thursday in Sunrise, Florida.

Hill once again brought his enthusiasm as well as his A-game. In the first, he stopped Carter Verheuge and later in the stretch hit Tkachuk in net with his brake and then chopped him with the stick.

“He was unreal for us,” Vegas forward William Carrier said. “He was incredible.”

The Knights dominated early, taking a 2-0 first period lead on goals by Marchesso and Martinez. It was the third straight game for Vegas to score on the power-play, the first time since Christmas week.

The Panthers lost their biggest, toughest defender early in the game when Radko Gudas was injured on a hit by Vegas forward Ivan Barbashev. Gudas left at 6:39 and did not return.

It was one of several big successes for Barbashev, the Golden Knights’ biggest trade deadline acquisition with Stanley Cup champion St. Louis in 2019. Barbashev broke the chest of Colorado defenseman Samuel Girard in the playoffs last year, also in a clean play. hit

Vegas had its own scare late in the second period when Jack Eichel was nailed in the right shoulder by Tkachuk. Eichel came back in the third and set up Marcheso’s second goal for his second assist of the game.

“We did a good job of controlling the momentum tonight,” Eichel said. “And we got some timely goals.”

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