Despite losing Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, the Florida Panthers aren't ready to hit the panic button
Far from it, in fact.
"It's just one game," forward Anthony Duclair said Sunday. "For us, we've been here before. Learn from (Saturday) night, watch a little video and just have fun."
Expect a loose Florida team going into Game 2 of their best-of-seven series against the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday night in Las Vegas
"When you're in this position, it could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Duclair, who scored a goal in series-opening 5-2 loss on Saturday. "So you've got to make the most of it."
Duclair, no doubt, is taking the lead of Panthers coach Paul Maurice, who pointed out that Florida, which barely snuck into the playoffs as the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, has been in this position before
"We lost the first game in the Boston series (in Round 1) as well," Maurice said. "Got a little better. Lost two more. Got a little better. Everybody just (expletive) breathe."
Maurice's comments drew some laughter from the media, but he made his point. The Panthers rebounded from a 3-1 deficit to knock off the record-setting Bruins, followed that up by taking Toronto down in five games and swept Carolina in four games in the Eastern Conference finals
So, been there, done that.
"It's the first game," said goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who stopped 29 of 33 shots while suffering just his third loss in 14 playoff starts. "It's a long series. Lots of hockey ahead of us. We play, we learn and we move on."
If for a little better luck and not for a highlight-reel save by Vegas goaltender Adin Hill, the outcome of Game 1 could have been a lot different.
Florida had three shots clang off the post over the first two periods, and Hill dove across the crease to deflect Nick Cousins' chip shot on an open net with the paddle of his stick.
"Just kind of desperation there," Hill admitted. "Reached out with my stick and got a piece of it."
"That's an unreal save, right?" Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. "You need those saves at key moments. We didn't play our best game in front of him. I'm the first to admit that."
Despite all that, the Panthers still were tied 2-2 entering the third period after Duclair's goal from the top of the right circle with 11 seconds left in the period
The Golden Knights' Zach Whitecloud scored the game-winner on a long point shot that snuck past a double screen at the 6:59 mark of the third period. Mark Stone made it 4-2 when he batted down a clearing pass in the low slot and then quickly roofed a wrist shot with 6:19 remaining, and Reilly Smith sealed the win with an empty-netter
"Obviously, the first game was huge to get the win," said Vegas center Jonathan Marchessault, who scored his team-leading 10th goal of the playoffs. "(But) there's a lot of work left to do."
Vegas also won Game 1 in its first Stanley Cup Final during its inaugural season in 2017-18 but then lost four in a row to the Washington Capitals.
"We're three (wins) away," Hill said. "Our job is not finished. You know Florida is going to have a push in Game 2."
--Field Level Media