The Vegas Golden Knights, in just their sixth NHL season, defeated the Florida Panthers 9-3 Tuesday night in Las Vegas to win the franchise’s first Stanley Cup in five games.
Vegas captain Mark Stone had a goal in each period to lead the Golden Knights, who joined the NHL before the 2017-2018 season.
The 31-year-old Stone becomes the first player since 1922 to net a hat-trick in a Stanley Cup-clinching victory, according to the NHL.
After the game, each player took a turn, as is tradition, in hoisting the famed trophy.
“Unbelievable,” Stone told TNT of the experience. “I just looked at my teammates’ eyes … One of the craziest feelings I’ve ever had. Just to know that I did it with my 25, 30 best friends makes it that much more special.”
The Golden Knights’ offensive prowess was again in full display on Tuesday night in front of a raucous crowd inside and outside of T-Mobile Arena. The Golden Knights became the seventh team in NHL history to score five or more goals in three or more games of the same Stanley Cup Final series.
The championship is the second major title in two years for the city of Las Vegas. In 2022, the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces won the league crown with a 3-1 series win over the Connecticut Sun.
Vegas led 2-0 at the first intermission, then the rout commenced in the second period as the newly crowned champs scored four times and took a 6-1 lead into the final 20 minutes.
Golden Knights goalie Adin Hill let in two goals but continued to thwart the Panthers with several fine saves in the third.
Jonathan Marchessault won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the best player in the postseason. But he deflected credit for the championship.
“You know, one night it’s one guy, one night it’s another guy,” he told TNT. “That’s the mentality we had this year. We’re a bunch of good teammates in that locker room. … Everybody stepped up at different times.”
Vegas pulls away with a flurry of goals
Stone put the Golden Knights up 1-0 with a short-handed goal with 8:08 left in the first period. Less than two minutes later, the puck got under Florida goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, and Vegas’ Nicolas Hague snapped it into the net for a 2-0 lead.
Already facing an uphill battle in the series, the Panthers were without superstar Matthew Tkachuk for Game 5, who was ruled out due to a fractured sternum. Tkachuk had led the Panthers with 24 points and 11 goals, including several game-winners, in the playoffs.
But early in the second period the Panthers cut the deficit to one when Aaron Ekblad scored on an assist from Nick Cousins. Ekblad’s second goal of the playoffs made it 2-1 with 17:45 remaining in the second.
Alec Martinez reestablished a two-goal lead for the Golden Knights with a wrist shot that found the top shelf over Bobrovsky’s right shoulder. With 9:32 left in the period, it was 3-1 Golden Knights.
Vegas extended the lead to three when Reilly Smith scored on a nifty pass from William Karlsson to his wide-open teammate. The score was 4-1 Vegas with 7:47 left in the second period.
The fifth goal for Vegas came when Stone fired in his second on a smart cross-ice pass from Brett Howden with 2:45 remaining before the intermission.
Disaster struck for the Panthers when – with just seconds left in the period – Florida failed to get the puck out of the defensive zone and Smith picked it up at the blue line. He fed Michael Amadio in front of the net and his rebound shot trickled under Bobrovsky’s leg.
In the third period, Ivan Barbashev of the Golden Knights made it 7-1 before Florida’s Sam Reinhart and Sam Bennett scored consolation goals.
Stone capped his hat-trick with an empty net goal as Florida played with six skaters to make it 8-3. Then with just over a minute left in the season, Nicolas Roy made the final score 9-3.
After making the Stanley Cup Final in the franchise’s inaugural season, the Golden Knights returned to the championship series for a second time in their young history.
“That pain was, it was tough. to be honest. It took me almost couple months, a full year, to get over it cause you’re so close but so far,” said Marchessault, who has been with the team all six seasons. He said his approach changed and “look at where we are right now. Our team has been unbelievable since the beginning. And we’re winners.”
With the victory the Golden Knights became the second-fastest franchise in the league’s modern era – since 1943-44 – to win a championship. The Edmonton Oilers won the Stanley Cup in the franchise’s fifth season in the NHL.
CNN’s Homero De la Fuente contributed to this report.