The Vegas Golden Knights chased Sergei Bobrovsky from the net, kept top scorer Matthew Tkachuk mostly in check and knocked the playoffs’ leading hitter out of the game.
That’s why they lead the Florida Panthers 2-0 in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final after a 7-2 blowout victory Monday night in Las Vegas.
Bobrovsky’s strong play had helped the Panthers rally past the No. 1 overall Boston Bruins in the first round and he gave up two or fewer goals in eight of the next nine games to help the Panthers reach the Final for the first time since 1996.
But the Golden Knights scored four goals against Bobrovsky in each of the first two games at T-Mobile Arena. Bobrovsky was pulled in the second period in favor of Alex Lyon.
Jonathan Marchessault and Brett Howden each had two goals as Vegas became the first team since the 2006 Carolina Hurricanes to score five or more goals in each of the first two games of a Stanley Cup Final. Game 3 will be Thursday night in Sunrise, Florida.
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A closer look at Game 2:
Golden Knights overwhelm Panthers’ Sergei Bobrovsky
Bobrovsky didn’t play poorly in the Game 1 loss, but the Golden Knights used the same strategy to beat him in Game 2.
Former Panther Marchessault drew a penalty and then scored on the power play, firing a puck through a Mark Stone screen. Vegas’ Alec Martinez also scored through a screen, shooting the puck past Panthers defenseman Josh Mahura. Bobrovsky was screened by his defenseman, Casey Fitzgerald, on the third goal.
“If we’re going to be there, we’ve got to block them,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said. “We’re working on it. We’re trying, but we’re about 3 inches off on those shots.”
The fourth goal, by Howden, was assisted by Stone and the Golden Knights bench. Stone broke his stick in the Vegas zone, picked up a new stick from the bench and made a sharp pass to Howden.
That was enough as Maurice pulled Bobrovsky, who gave up four goals on 13 shots.
“We can be a little better in front of our goaltender,” Maurice said. “He’s been unbelievable for us. I got him out to keep him rested.”
Radko Gudas and Jack Eichel leave, but Eichel returns
The Panthers had dressed seven defensemen for the game and needed it because Radko Gudas left the game in the first period after a hard check from Golden Knights forward Ivan Barbashev. Gudas didn’t return and Maurice had no update on him after the game.
Vegas forward Jack Eichel went to the dressing room in the second period when he lost an edge and was checked by Tkachuk. Eichel was in pain and went to the dressing room for the remainder of the period. In the ensuing scrum, Tkachuk and Barbashev each got misconducts.
“I was a little surprised by (the misconduct),” Tkachuk told reporters. “I went to the bench getting ready for a power play.”
Tkachuk also received a misconduct in Game 1.
Eichel returned for the third period and set up Marchessault’s second goal of the game. It was his second assist of the game and 22nd point of the playoffs.
“It was a big hit, but I came back in here and regrouped and I was fine,” Eichel told reporters.
Tkachuk did get his first point of the series when he scored to cut the Panthers’ deficit to 6-2. He had 21 points entering the Final.
He was sent to the dressing room after picking up another misconduct in the third period.
“I think one of those misconducts I deserved, but I don’t know about the other one,” he told reporters.
The Panthers had better special teams entering the series, but Vegas is 4-for-11 on the power play during the two games and have killed off all seven Florida power plays. … The Golden Knights have nine different goal scorers so far in the series – the most by a team in the opening two contests of a Final in NHL history. … The Anaheim Ducks named Greg Cronin, 60, their head coach. It’s his first NHL head coaching job, but he has been an assistant with the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Islanders, plus a head coach in the American Hockey League and in college hockey. … The Montreal Canadiens signed forward Cole Caufield to an eight-year contract extension averaging $7.85 million a season. That cap hit makes him second on the team behind captain Nick Suzuki ($7.875 million).