Late surge lifts Knights past Panthers in Game 1

LAS VEGAS — Zach Whitecloud scored from long range with just over 13 minutes left, after Adin Hill made arguably the best save of the playoffs, and the Vegas Golden Knights beat the Florida Panthers 5-2 Saturday night in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Whitecloud’s goal put Vegas ahead, a crucial penalty kill followed and captain Mark Stone scored an insurance goal that was reviewed for a high stick and confirmed. That combination, plus Hill’s 31 saves, gave Vegas the lead in the series after a feisty opener between Sun Belt teams that wasted little time getting acquainted with big hits during play and plenty of post-whistle pushing and shoving.

Original Knights players Jonathan Marchessault and Shea Theodore also scored on Florida’s two-time Vezina winner, Sergei Bobrovsky.

Back in the Final, they’ll now try to avoid the same result as in 2018, when Vegas beat Washington in Game 1 and lost the next four to fall short of hoisting the Cup in its inaugural season.

The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for the Panthers, who breezed past the Toronto Maple Leafs in Round 2 before sweeping the Carolina Hurricanes last week.

Florida also lost a road game for the first time since Round 1, when the Panthers upset the Boston Bruins.

Game 2 is Monday in Las Vegas.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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