SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) Carter Verhaeghe and Sam Reinhart scored power-play goals 1:59 apart in the third period, and the Florida Panthers went into their Christmas break by topping the Vegas Golden Knights 4-2 on Saturday in a rematch of last season's Stanley Cup Final.

Sam Bennett and Gustav Forsling also scored for Florida, and Matthew Tkachuk, Aleksander Barkov and Brandon Montour each finished with two assists. Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 23 shots.

Mark Stone and Pavel Dorofeyev scored for Vegas, which topped Florida in five games last spring for the title. The Golden Knights matched a season-worst by losing their third straight and are just 10-9-4 following an 11-0-1 start to their title defense.

Jiri Patera stopped 38 shots for Vegas. Florida had lost four of five before Saturday.

“They got our best tonight,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said. “We were pretty good. ... We couldn't win the Cup or lose the Cup tonight, but we did as well as we could have.”

The Panthers came out flying, taking 15 of the game's first 16 shots. Add in those shot attempts that missed the net or were blocked in the first 15 minutes of play, and Florida had 29 of the game's first 30 tries to get a puck on goal.

“We're grinding and trying to get pucks to the net,” Verhaeghe said. “We're getting really good chances. Some of them aren't going in but it was nice to see a couple go in finally and hopefully we can continue that.”

And there were clearly memories of what happened last June, including the hit from Vegas' Keegan Kolesar that left Tkachuk with a fractured sternum and out of the series. Kolesar fought Florida's Ryan Lomberg midway through the first period Saturday; the fight lasted exactly one punch, with Lomberg landing the first and only blow before Kolesar wound up on the ice.

Kolesar seemed shaky at the time, but eventually had an assist on the second Vegas goal Saturday.

“He gave me the chance to kind of even the score. Obviously, he's a pretty tough customer,” Lomberg said.

But Patera stoned Florida time and again despite the early flurry of pucks headed his way, and then Stone opened the scoring early in the second.

Bennett tied it for Florida and Forsling scored to put the Panthers on top, before Dorofeyev seemed to give Vegas a big shot of momentum by tying the game with 22.3 seconds left in the second period. He stayed locked in on a pass into the slot by Ben Hutton that hit the stick of Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, and then slid the deflected puck into the open side of the net.

Verhaeghe's goal from the high slot just 17 seconds into a power play put Florida on top for good, and Reinhart provided the insurance tally about 2 minutes later - with Tkachuk helping by perfectly screening Patera on the play.

Vegas went 0-3-0 on its trip east to Carolina, Tampa Bay and Florida.

“It’s probably a good time for the break,” Stone said. “This wasn’t our best road trip by any means. We didn’t play enough 60-minute hockey in those three games, but we’ve been through adversity before and we've got to come out of the other side of the break rested and recovered.”


Golden Knights: Visit Anaheim on Wednesday.

Panthers: Visit Tampa Bay on Wednesday.



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