Hill Steals the Show in Golden Knights’ Game 1 Win vs. Panthers

The Vegas Golden Knights opened the 2023 Stanley Cup Final with a 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers and are now just three wins away from winning their first championship.

It was a back-and-forth contest that started with Eric Staal opening the scoring for the Panthers on the penalty kill less than 10 minutes into the game. Jonathan Marchessault and Shea Theodore scored two unanswered goals for the Golden Knights in the second period to take the lead before Anthony Duclair tied the game 2-2 in the final moments of the frame.

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Then, Zach Whitecloud, Mark Stone and Reilly Smith scored three consecutive goals for the Golden Knights in the third period while Adin Hill stopped all 10 shots he faced to seal the win.

Adin Hill Vegas Golden Knights
Adin Hill of the Vegas Golden Knights tends net against the Florida Panthers during the second period in Game 1 of the 2023 NHL Stanley Cup Final (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Heading into this game, the Panthers were 8-0 in the playoffs when scoring first, but the Golden Knights’ offense settled in and found ways to generate dangerous chances. Eight of the Golden Knights’ 12 wins in the playoffs have been come-from-behind victories, which is the most comeback wins of any team who participated in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season.

Adin Hill Comes Up Huge for Golden Knights

Adin Hill has somehow found a way to take his play to another level with each performance since he took over for Laurent Brossoit, with this game being his best one yet. He stopped 33 of the 35 shots he faced, which included a save-of-the-year candidate on Panthers forward Nick Cousins following a great sequence of one-touch passes.

Hill has put together a 7-3-0 record along with a .931 save percentage (SV%) and a 2.07 goals against average (GAA) throughout the playoffs and is third in Goals Save Above Expected behind only Igor Shesterkin and his opponent in this series, Sergei Bobrovsky.

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Hill also made a crucial breakaway save in the final five minutes on Sam Reinhart to keep their two-goal lead. This felt like the type of performance that could be looked back on when considering the Conn Smythe trophy winner, and Hill has cemented himself as the early favorite to take home that award.

Shea Theodore’s Playoff Breakout

Theodore finished with two points, including a highlight reel goal where he sidestepped Duclair and walked the blue line before firing a shot high in the slot past Bobrovsky for the 2-1 lead. He also had the third-most ice time on the Golden Knights with 20:58 and finished with the highest Corsi For percentage (CF%) of 69.23%.

This was Theodore’s first goal of the playoffs and his first since March 7, breaking a 27-game drought and joining Deryk Engelland as the second defenseman in Golden Knights history to have a multi-point game in the Stanley Cup Final. Through the first three rounds of the playoffs, the Golden Knights only had three goals from their defensemen, and they had two in this game with Zach Whitecloud getting on the board as well.

When Theodore has the confidence to pull off moves like he did on his goal, the Golden Knights are a much more dynamic team. Furthermore, if the Golden Knights’ defensemen can continue to produce, the Panthers could have their hands full throughout the rest of this series.

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