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Vegas routs Panthers 7-2 as Panthers’ magic and stars go missing

LAS VEGAS — As the Florida Panthers made their eight-seeded run to the Stanley Cup Final, the three prime factors were Sergei Bobrovsky’s goaltending, Matthew Tkachuk’s dramatic scoring and healthy special-teams play.

All three were missing in the desert again in Game 2  of the Final as Vegas routed the Panthers, 7-2, Monday night to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Bobrovsky was replaced in the second period, Vegas is feasting on power plays and, while Tkachuk did score Monday, it was in a 6-1 game with no celebration.

Tkachuk’s presence was felt more by a resounding and legal check on Vegas star Jack Eichel that led to scrums and 10-minute misconduct penalties. Tkachuk then got his second misconduct penalty late in the third period to end his night.

The only good news for the Panthers after two games is the scheduled one: The Final comes to Sunrise for Game 3 on Thursday night. The Panthers will be up against history as well as Vegas when it does.

Only five teams in 53 Stanley Cup Final series have rebounded from an 0-2 deficit to win. That drops to three teams when they started 0-2 on the road like the Panthers.

The Panthers’ post-season will have to through some more history to win this series. Only five teams in 53 Stanley Cup Final series have rebounded form an 0-2 deficit to win. That drops to three teams when they started 0-2 on the road like the Panthers.

One certain change needed for the series to change is less Vegas scoring. Bobrovsky was replaced by Alex Lyon in the second period of a 4-0 game. Vegas sored more goals (eight) on Bobrovsky in less than six periods than Carolina (six) did the entire series. Toronto scored just one less in its five games.

Game 2 started where Game 1 ended. There were some crushing hits on both sides. Sam Bennett had a big, open-ice hit before Josh Mahura and Radko Gudas were leveled.

Ryan Lomberg was then penalized for cross-checking in going after Vegas center Jonathan Marchessault’s face. That led to another continued theme of the first game. Marchessault scored on a power play,  Marchessault scoring on the power play.

It was the Marchessault’s second, power-play goal in the series and Vegas’s fourth in eight power plays. That’s a big change from the 18.2 percent the Vegas power play had scored on in the first three playoff rounds (the Panthers penalty kill entered at an average 71.2 percent).

The Panthers’ power play has been a surprise, too. It went scoreless Monday in three chances, making it 0-for-6 in the series. Vegas entered the Final with the worst statistical penalty kill (63 percent) of any team advancing past the first round while the Panthers’ power play was scoring at a strong 27.9 percent rate through three rounds.

Marchessault was the centerpiece of that first period as he drew a second penalty for roughing on Panthers defenseman Brandon Montour (the Panthers killed that off). He then assisted on the goal by defenseman Alex Martinez to make it 2-0.

Panthers defenseman Casey Fitzgeral, in the lineup for the first time since playing eight minutes in one game against Boston, then made a mistake. Early in the second period, Fitzgerald turned his back and allowed Vegas captain Mark Stone to skate with the puck in front of Bobrovsky to make it 3-0.

After Brett Howden skated in alone on Bobrovsky to make it 4-0, it was over except for the fighting. That’s came when when Tkachuk delivered an open-ice, shoulder-to-shoulder hit on Eichel that might have echoed. It did lead to three Vegas players immediately jumping Tkachuk.

The aftermath was Tkachuk and Vegas’s Ivan Barbashev were given roughing and 10-minute misconduct penalties. Anton Lundell ended the shutout 14 seconds into the third period, but Vegas tacked on three more goals, including Marchessault’s second of the night.

The physical play continued to the end in a way that parallels the Panthers’ first round against Boston in some manner. The Panthers rallied from a 1-3 deficit against a historically strong Boston team. They’ll have to beat history in similar fashion against Vegas.

Returning home can’t hurt. Returning to form of the previous series would help more.


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