The Florida Panthers found the back of the net first in the 2023 NHL Stanley Cup Finals after veteran forward Eric Staal lit the lamp with a shorthanded goal in the first period of Game 1 Saturday night. Staal is playing in his 100th game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and he could not have dreamed of a better way to kick things off from a personal perspective.
Staal's goal came after Panthers center Nick Cousins was sent to the penalty box. Sergei Bobrovsky did a fantastic job holding the fort in front of the net for the Panthers during the team's shorthanded stretch, while Staal took care of business on the other end of the ice to stun the Golden Knights in front of a huge crowd in Las Vegas.
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Also not that spectacular pass from Anton Lundell, who put the puck just right where Staal wanted it before the latter got creative and eluded Golden Knights defenders and Vegas goalie Adin Hill for a sweet-looking wraparound goal. The 38-year-old Staal still has it, apparently. That was also just the second goal in the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs for Staal, who is no stranger to the biggest stage in the NHL. Staal had raised and kissed the Stanley Cup before, having won it with the Carolina Hurricanes way back in 2006.
The Golden Knights were able to answer right back before the end of the first period with Jonathan Marchessault scoring on the power play to tie the game up at 1-1. The Panthers will have to play with more discipline after giving Vegas two chances on the power play in the first period alone of Game 1.