We are now on the highest stage possible in hockey… The Stanley Cup Finals where two teams out of each of their respective conferences battle it out in the best of seven and first to four wins to capture that enormous silver trophy with so much history to it.
So let's get to both the teams representing each conference. Representing the East are the red hot Florida Panthers who have surprised many this postseason, a team that finished last in the Atlantic Division (42-32-8) while the Vegas Golden Knights finished with the best record in the West (51-22-9).
The Panthers have had some remarkable victories throughout their playoff run, whether that was defeating the Boston Bruins, who had the best record in the NHL this season (65-17), or sweeping the Carolina Hurricanes in dominant fashion in the Conference Finals, they have shown they belong.
On the other end, the Vegas Knights defeated a highly talented Edmonton Oilers team led by a transcendent talent in Connor McDavid while also holding off a relentless Dallas Stars team comeback to win the series in six games.
The game started off very choppy between both teams with a lot of scuffles and banter early on between the players, with the referees having to try to simmer down the commotion between the players.
Panthers center, Eric Staal, got the Panthers first on the scoreboard with a great behind the goal wrap around score with three Knights players rushing toward him after a beautiful assist from Anton Lundell that started off on a 2 on 1 fastbreak.
The Knights came back late in the first period off a power play goal by Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault to tie it at 1-1.
The second period started with a mesmerizing save by Knights goalie Adin Hill who showed why he’s ranked fourth in postseason saves with 315 before accumulating 33 more saves in Game 1.
Panthers netminder, Sergei Bobrovsky, made an incredible save himself just moments later after an astonishing save by Hill, which is nothing new for the Russian goalie as he came into Game 1 with 471 postseason saves (1st) and added 29 more at the conclusion of the game.
The Knights wouldn’t score again until around the 9:00 mark off a Shea Theodore goal where he deked his defender off balance and saw an opening with Bobrovsky not looking and took full advantage of the opening with a quick flip shot into the goal to give the Knights their first lead of the game, 2-1, and Theodore’s first goal of the postseason.
The Panthers scored again later on after winning a faceoff by left winger Anthony Duclair, who immediately scored right out the gate to tie the game 2-2 before the end of the second period in what had been an enthralling game up to that point.
Moments earlier there was a scuffle between Brandon Montour and Nicolas Hague after Montour was coming in off the bench; Hague turned around and collided with each other that caused a scuffle that caused the referees to calm the players down.
After several minutes of back and forth of exhilarating action in what seemed like a combat match, the Knights scored their third goal of the game off a Zach Whitecloud goal to put the Knights back up 3-2.
You could feel the energy in the crowd, the arena was livid, the crowd frantic with each passing second, as the frenetic effort from both clubs seemed to be soaked up by the crowd throughout the third period.
Could the Panthers respond in a hostile crowd environment as they have all postseason? Unfortunately, the Panthers couldn’t rally, as they continued their struggles trying to convert on the power play all night going 0 of 3 in Game 1.
Knights winger Mark Stone came to score the first unassisted goal for the Knights to push their lead 4-2 as time was starting to be the enemy for the Panthers.
The choppiness in the game reached a pinnacle when Panthers left winger Matthew Tkachuk was thrown out of the game due to misconduct that gave the Knights a two-man advantage of 5 on 3 for five seconds prior to a four-minute power play, which the Knights took advantage of once again off Reilly Smith’s goal to grab the Panthers by the throat with a 5-2 lead and taking full control of the game.
Game 1 was one of the most exciting games I’ve witnessed in sports, if this is just a sign of what’s to come throughout the duration of the series, hockey fans are in for a real treat. Game 2 is set for 8 p.m. Eastern Time Tuesday on TNT.