The Vegas Golden Knights contained their pest problem in Game 1. Matthew Tkachuk did not score and his only contributions on the scoresheet were a minor double for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct penalty in the third quarter.
Tkachuk will forever live in infamy among Carolina Hurricanes fans. He scored three game-winning goals during the Eastern Conference final sweep of the Florida Panthers, including a pair of overtime winners. Without Tkachuk, Carolina could have won the series. Tkachuk similarly tortured the Toronto Maple Leafs and led his team against the Boston Bruins in the first round.
Not bad for a player who essentially forced himself out of Calgary by refusing to negotiate a contract last summer. So the Calgary Flames traded him to Florida.
While Calgary missed the playoffs, Tkachuk is the man in the Sunshine State. Until Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, anyway.
The Golden Knights followed their script Saturday and largely kept Tkachuk away from the net. He put Nick Cousins on that fateful Adin Hill save early in the second quarter, and nearly took advantage of a defensive lapse when he was left alone near the net.
It was also Tkachuk who made the fateful draw in the third period. Mark Stone knocked down his punt pass and quickly sent it into the net.
Otherwise, the Game 1 battle between Florida’s most popular player ended with a Golden Knights win and plenty of laughs from Nic Hague. The Golden Knights posted a solid 5-2 victory at T-Mobile Arena.
Tkachuk tried to goad Hague into confrontations. Hague was willing to scrap but not willing to take a penalty. Tkachuk delivered small jabs as the linesmen separated him from Hague, once even brushing Hague’s helmet with his stick during a scrum, but Hague didn’t bite.
It was all or nothing for Hague. She fights or skates away. During a second period melee, one of the linesmen sternly gestured for Hague to leave the area while the linesman held down Tkachuk, keeping the pair apart.
Hague backed up a few feet and stood upright, neither moving nor shuffling.
The linesmen kept Tkachuk away from The Hague multiple times in Game 1, often to laughs from the Golden Knights defenseman. He knew the game and wasn’t taking the bait.
The Panthers’ shot chart confirms the VHN series analysis. This is a good matchup for the Golden Knights because their big defenders would keep Florida out.
NaturalStatTrick.com’s shot chart shows the Panthers trying to walk to the net from the goal line with only marginal success. Those close angle shots can count as high danger, but can usually be stopped.