The Florida Panthers' long layoff seemed to have knocked them out of rhythm, as they lost 7-2 to the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final. After sweeping the Hurricanes for the second Prince of Wales Trophy in franchise history, the Panthers had 10 days between the Eastern Conference final and the start of the Stanley Cup Final. However, they looked like a shell of the team that swept the Hurricanes, giving up numerous rush chances, skating themselves into screens, and giving up unconscionable open ice to studs like Jonathan Marchessault.
In contrast, the Vegas Golden Knights took advantage of the extra time off due to the delay caused by the Stars' win over the Knights in the Western Conference final. The loss to the Stars may have been the best thing that happened to the Knights, as it pushed the start of the Stanley Cup Final back four days. The Knights had more time to rest and prepare, which showed in their dominant performance in Game 2.
Meanwhile, 18-year-old Connor Bedard, the anticipated No. 1 pick by the Chicago Blackhawks, was in Las Vegas for about 48 hours in advance of Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final. Bedard was in awe of the city's atmosphere and enjoyed his first-ever trip to Sin City. Along with fellow top prospects, he ate at an expensive steakhouse and played Topgolf before attending pregame skates by both the Golden Knights and Panthers. The soon-to-be drafted players all had their own "This is the real NHL" moments.
In addition, Radko Gudas, the Florida Panthers defenseman and leading hitter in the NHL playoffs, left the Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final after being knocked down to the ice by a forceful check from the Vegas Golden Knights' Ivan Barbashev. Gudas was lining up Barbashev for a hit but was instead sent flying by a reverse hit, hitting his head on the ice. The Panthers announced that he wouldn't return to the game during the second period. Gudas entered the game with 79 hits, the most in the playoffs, and was second in the league during the regular season with 312 hits. However, Florida had dressed seven defensemen for the game, so they weren't short on the blue line after Gudas departed.
In conclusion, the Florida Panthers struggled in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final after a 10-day layoff, while the Vegas Golden Knights took advantage of the delay caused by their loss to the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference final. The Panthers need to have cleaner plays in the D-zone and shut down the rush game to improve their performance in the series.