Mark Stone grabbed a brilliant hat-trick as the Vegas Golden Knights thrashed the Florida Panthers 9-3 on Tuesday to clinch the NHL Stanley Cup for the first time in the franchise’s six-year history.
The Knights, who had taken a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series with a battling victory in Florida on Saturday, dominated throughout at Las Vegas’s T-Mobile Arena to seal an emphatic victory over the Eastern Conference champions.
Florida were always struggling to keep a rampant Vegas at bay as the Knights became the fastest expansion team to win ice hockey’s greatest prize, clinching the title in their sixth season.
The previous record had been held by the Philadelphia Flyers, who won the title in their seventh season in the 1973-74 campaign.
Vegas captain Stone’s hat-trick was the first by a player in a Stanley Cup-clinching game since Babe Dye achieved the feat for Toronto in 1922.
“I can’t describe the feelings in my stomach right now, it’s everything you would imagine,” a jubilant Stone said after the victory.
“The grind of an 82-game season, four playoff rounds — you grind, and you grind and you grind and at the end of the day, you’re the last team standing. It’s incredible.
“I don’t know what else to say — everyone on the team in those four walls, it’s amazing.”
Knights star Jonathan Marchessault was named Stanley Cup Most Valuable Player.
The Panthers — also chasing a first Stanley Cup title — had been dealt a blow before game five started with confirmation that star player Matthew Tkachuk was ruled out with an undisclosed injury.
After a cagey opening, Vegas skipper Stone opened the scoring in the first period with a superb goal that came with the Knights shorthanded due to a Florida powerplay.
Stone feinted cleverly to wrongfoot the Florida defense before lifting his shot past Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.
Nicolas Hague made it 2-0 to Vegas soon afterwards, bundling home from close range after the puck squirted loose from beneath Bobrovsky during a furious goalmouth scramble.
Aaron Ekblad raised hopes of a Florida recovery with a goal early in the second period to make it 2-1, but Vegas roared back with four unanswered goals in the same period to launch raucous celebrations amongst the home fans.
Alex Martinez made it 3-1 after latching onto Jack Eichel’s feed and slamming the puck into the top corner before Reilly Smith extended the Vegas lead after scooping home a clever between-the-legs pass from Brett Howden.
Stone then smashed in his second of the game, his long-range effort going through Bobrovsky’s legs to make it 5-1.
With seconds remaining in the second period, Michael Amadio somehow bundled the puck in from close range to leave Vegas 6-1 up heading into the final period.
Ivan Barbashev drove in a seventh goal early in the third period as the rout continued, before Florida hit back with back-to-back strikes from Sam Reinhart and Sam Bennett that made it 7-3.
Yet it was only a fleeting interruption to the Vegas scoring, with Stone smashing a long-range effort into an empty net before Nicolas Roy made it 9-3.
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