The Vegas Golden Knights picked up where they left off in the third period of Game 1 and crushed the Florida Panthers in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final. Right from the opening puck drop, the Golden Knights were the superior team, and they rolled to a 7-2 victory and a 2-0 series lead.
It took seven minutes for Jonathan Marchessault to open the scoring with a power play goal, and the blowout was on from there. Alec Martinez scored to make it a 2-0 game heading into the first intermission, and Vegas did not look back.
In the second period, the Golden Knights scored two more and chased a struggling Sergei Bobrovsky from his crease after just 13 shots on goal. Alex Lyon took over goaltending duties for the Panthers, but he didn't fare any better behind a porous defensive effort. Vegas tacked on three more goals in the third period for good measure.
One of those goals belonged to Marchessault, who brought his total to 12 goals in his last 12 games. His case for the Conn Smythe Trophy gets better and better with each passing game.
While the Panthers' goaltenders were sweeping pucks out of their net all night, Adin Hill was outstanding for Vegas. Hill made a handful of flashy saves, and he wound up stopping 28 of the 30 shots that Florida threw his way.
The Panthers did net a pair of third-period goals to make the score a little more respectable, but the Golden Knights were never in jeopardy of losing this game. Vegas has controlled the last four periods, and Florida has to regroup in time for Game 3 on Thursday night.
Vegas keeps March-essault-ing on
In 2017, the Panthers exposed Jonathan Marchessault in the NHL Expansion Draft and allowed the Golden Knights to select him. They might be regretting that decision right about now.
After Game 2 against the Edmonton Oilers, seven games into the Golden Knights' playoff run, Jonathan Marchessault had just one assist. Then, Marchessault broke out of that drought with a two-goal performance in Game 3, and he has been white hot ever since.
In the last 12 games, Marchessault has 12 goals and six assists for 18 points. On Monday night, Marchessault got the barrage started with a power play goal in the first period, and he added another when the Panthers inexplicably left the hottest player on the ice wide open in front of Alex Lyon.
At this rate, Marchessault is going to get some serious consideration for the Conn Smythe Trophy. Marchessault is second in playoff goals, only behind Leon Draisaitl, and he is quickly closing in on the playoff lead in points.
Marchessault will have some competition for the award, most notably from teammate Jack Eichel, but accepting the Conn Smythe Trophy in front of his former team would make for a sweet end to an exceptional postseason.
Golden Knights dominate with depth
The Golden Knights' depth has given them an advantage throughout the playoffs, and that has been the case through the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final. All four lines have been effective at generating offense against the Panthers.
Vegas has dressed 18 skaters so far in the series, and 15 of them have recorded a point. The only three who haven't are Nic Hague, Alex Pietrangelo, and Keegan Kolesar. This comes after every single player recorded a point against the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference Final.
Jack Eichel and Mark Stone, the Golden Knights' two biggest stars, have certainly led the way through these first two games, but the supporting cast has carried its share of the weight. Ivan Barbashev has two goals. Zach Whitecloud has a goal and an assist. Chandler Stephenson has gotten back on track with three assists.
It has been the definition of a team effort in Sin City. When everyone from the superstars to the fourth-liners are scoring, the Golden Knights are a juggernaut, and the Panthers are learning that the hard way.
What happened in Vegas needs to stay in Vegas
Much like any misadventure in Las Vegas, the Panthers' performance in the first two games needs to stay there. Florida got outplayed for four consecutive periods, and it looked like a shell of the team that knocked out the Boston Bruins and cruised to a sweep in the Eastern Conference Final.
Matthew Tkachuk, who has been incredibly effective in the playoffs, has three misconduct penalties and one goal. Aleksander Barkov, Carter Verhaeghe, and Sam Reinhart have combined for zero points. Aaron Ekblad and Gustav Forsling have struggled against the Golden Knights' relentless attack.
Perhaps the most concerning area of Florida's game in Vegas was the goaltending. Sergei Bobrovsky played at a superhuman level through the first three rounds of the playoffs, but now he looks extremely human. Bobrovsky has posted a .826 save percentage and -2.52 goals saved above average in the Cup Final, per Natural Stat Trick.
Now the Panthers face a 2-0 deficit, which is one that only 13.7% of teams have come back from in NHL history. As the series shifts to Sunrise for Games 3 and 4, Florida needs to focus a little less on what happens after the whistle and more on what happens when the game is actually being played.