Vegas Golden Knights capture first Stanley Cup title with Game 5 rout of Florida Panthers

When owner Bill Foley was awarded an NHL expansion team, he said his goal was for the Vegas Golden Knights to win a Stanley Cup by their sixth season.

That came true on Tuesday night as the Golden Knights routed the Matthew Tkachuk-less Florida Panthers 9-3 to capture the franchise's first NHL championship.

The Panthers had pulled off upset after upset to reach the Final, but fell to the deep Golden Knights, who went efficiently through the playoffs, winning their title in 22 games.

Captain Mark Stone scored a hat trick, the first in a Stanley Cup Final since the Colorado Avalanche's Peter Forsberg scored three in a 1996 game, and the Golden Knights pulled away in a dominant second period.

Vegas Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy given to the playoff MVP, hoists the Stanley Cup.
Vegas Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy given to the playoff MVP, hoists the Stanley Cup.

That allowed Vegas to celebrate on home ice a little more than five years after the Washington Capitals had clinched the 2018 title at Las Vegas' T-Mobile Arena.

“Unbelievable,” Stone said. “The look in my teammates' eyes when I got (the Stanley Cup), one of the craziest feelings I’ve ever had. I can’t even describe the feelings in my stomach right now. It’s everything you can imagine.”

A closer look at Game 5:

How the Golden Knights beat the Panthers in Game 5

The Panthers' power play had struggled throughout the Final and it put them behind in Game 5.

Vegas goalie Adin Hill stopped Aleksander Barkov in close and soon after, Stone took advantage of a turnover to start a 2-on-1 break with Chandler Stephenson. With the pass taken away, he made a slick move in front of the net and shot the puck past Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky for a short-handed goal.

The Golden Knights took advantage of another odd-man break less than two minutes later, and defenseman Nicolas Hague finished it off by firing a loose puck into the net.

In the second period, Florida defenseman Aaron Ekblad cut the deficit to 2-1 with a shot through a screen, then Vegas took over again.

Defenseman Alec Martinez put Vegas back up by two goals nine years after he had scored the Cup-clinching goal for the Los Angeles Kings in the 2014 Final.

Shea Theodore and William Karlsson set up fellow original Golden Knight Reilly Smith to make it 4-1 before Stone made it 5-1 on a one-timer. Michael Amadio finished up the dominant period, putting his own rebound past Bobrovsky with 1.2 seconds left.

Vegas' Ivan Barbashev made it 7-1 in the third period before Florida's Sam Reinhart and Sam Bennett scored. Stone's third goal was scored into an empty net at 14:06 and Nicolas Roy scored the final goal with just over a minute to play.

Adin Hill shines for Golden Knights

Even though the game was a rout, Hill had to come up with big saves. He stopped Anton Lundell early, made the save on Barkov and robbed Anthony Duclair with a glove save in the third period.

Hill was one of five goalies that the Golden Knights used during the regular season. He entered play after Laurent Brossoit was injured in the second round and went 11-4 the rest of the playoffs.

Jonathan Marchessault wins Conn Smythe Trophy

Marchessault, who was left unprotected by the Panthers in the expansion draft, won the award for playoff MVP. He finished with 13 goals, tied for the playoff lead, and 25 points, which was second overall.

“He went on a heck of a run,” said Eichel, who led playoff scoring in his first postseason appearance. "So deserving of the Conn Smythe. I’m so happy for him. He’s been here since the beginning.”

Stone, as is tradition for the team captain, got to lift the Stanley Cup first. He handed off to Smith and the remaining original members of the Golden Knights got their turn.

Coach Bruce Cassidy also put out five of the six original players in the starting lineup.

Golden Knights franchise's path to the Stanley Cup

The Golden Knights' run to the Stanley Cup Final in their first season in 2017-18 pushed them to be aggressive. They traded for Stone in 2019, signed Alex Pietrangelo in 2020 and traded for Jack Eichel in 2021. Last season, cap woes and injuries caused the team to miss the playoffs for the first time, leading to the firing of Peter DeBoer and hiring of coach Bruce Cassidy. Hill was acquired to be a backup goalie in 2022.

They overcame major injuries this season (Stone, multiple goaltenders) and added physical forward Barbashev at the deadline, clinching the West's best record. With Stone back for the playoffs, Eichel healthy and original Golden Knights players (Marchessault, Karlsson, Theodore, Smith, etc.) producing, Vegas got past Winnipeg, Edmonton, Dallas and Florida to win it all.

The previous quickest expansion team to win a Cup after the Original Six era was the 1973-74 Philadelphia Flyers in their seventh season. The Edmonton Oilers, who arrived in a merger with the World Hockey Association, won in their fifth season.

Matthew Tkachuk unable to play in Game 5

Tkachuk, the Panthers' leading scorer, wasn't able to dress for the game because of a broken sternum. He absorbed a big hit in Game 3 and returned to score the tying goal of Florida's overtime win. But he was limited to four shifts in the third period of Game 4. Russian winger Grigori Denisenko made his playoff debut on the fourth line.

Contributing: Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Stanley Cup Final: Golden Knights win title in Game 5 rout of Panthers