Panthers riding momentum, look to even series with Golden Knights

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Despite losing Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final in disappointing fashion, the Vegas Golden Knights appear relaxed heading into Saturday’s road clash with the Florida Panthers in Sunrise, Fla

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Then again, the Golden Knights still hold a 2-1 edge in the best-of-seven series, giving them plenty of confidence even after they squandered a late lead en route to a 3-2 overtime loss that has the Panthers back in the series

“We’ve managed to stay composed throughout these playoffs,” Vegas forward William Karlsson said on Friday. “I’ve never expected it to go super easy. It should not be. To win is a grind and sometimes you lose, but all that matters is the next game. I think we’ve done a great job throughout the playoffs being composed and going into the next game, trying to win that one.”

The Golden Knights certainly could have won Game 3 and taken a stranglehold on the series. Thanks to a pair of power-play goals — the fifth and sixth Vegas has scored in the series — the Golden Knights earned their lead in the tight affair

It took a late Matthew Tkachuk goal to tie it while the Panthers had their goaltender pulled for the extra attacker, and then Carter Verhaeghe’s overtime winner to turn it into a defeat

Had it not been for fantastic goaltending by Florida’s Sergei Bobrovsky, the result would have been a one-sided Golden Knights victory

“We’re playing against a really good goaltender and a good hockey team. That’s how it goes,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “We’re not going to beat ourselves up over (Thursday’s) game. We’re going to do what we’ve always done. We’re going to look at what we can do to get better and keep growing our game.

That said, another Panthers win on Saturday, and the Golden Knights may not be so relaxed, which is exactly Florida’s quest going into the affair

As exciting and entertaining as their victory was, the Panthers cannot spend their time relishing it but must build on it. After all, a loss on Saturday would have Vegas looking to clinch the franchise’s first championship on home ice

In the Panthers‘ favor is the fact some of their big guns finally had an impact on the series

Tkachuk recorded more misconducts than points in the first two games, but he responded with his clutch goal in a two-point outing. Verhaeghe then scored his fourth career overtime winner, and second of this year’s playoffs — with the other the Game 7 opening-round winner against the Boston Bruins.

“He’s one of those guys who just has that in him,” Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov said of Verhaeghe. “He has an incredible shot. Whenever he shoots, it’s dangerous, no matter from where he’s shooting. To have that guy on the ice in overtime is always dangerous. I will give the puck to him any time.

And if that’s not enough for the Panthers to go into the clash with a boosted confidence, they can also look at their overtime success. With Thursday’s win, they boast a 7-0 record in overtime playoff games this year

“Everybody will probably say how they were leading most of game, which they were, but at the end of the day, nobody cares how we got here,” Tkachuk said. “It’s a 2-1 series. We came into (the) game just to win one game, and we did that, and we’re going to do the exact same thing going into Game 4.”

–Field Level Media

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