As the Florida Panthers made a furious attempt to tie Game 4 — and the series — Saturday night, Adin Hill made the biggest save of his career as he denied Florida’s Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett in the game’s closing seconds to give his team a win and commanding 3-1 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final.
“I kind of saw where the puck was and just tried to do anything I could to get a piece of something on it,” Hill said. “In situations like that it’s just full on desperation.”
His play this series has fueled the Golden Knights’ success and helped Vegas to a 3-2 win Saturday. The Golden Knights head back to Vegas one win away from hoisting their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
“Hillsy made the saves that we needed him to make,” Vegas defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “You can’t be surprised. How many games has he played here, as well as he’s played? He’s played well all year for us. All of our goalies have played well regardless of who’s in here. It’s a credit to him for being prepared when he did come in there a few series ago. You’ve got to be happy for him.”
Hill set the tone of the game by robbing Tkachuk in the opening period after Chandler Stephenson gave Vegas a 1-0 lead at 1:39 in the first period with his first of two goals.
Hill was on his way to putting forth his third shutout of the postseason before a goal by Florida’s Brandon Montour somehow deflected off two Golden Knights and into the net in the second period, giving the Panthers life.
But the 27-year-old Hill has made big saves at seemingly every turn of these playoffs, and that did not change. He had a spectacular stick save that helped Vegas to a 5-2 win in the opener, has blocked 111 of 120 shots in the series and has the highest save percentage (.934) among all goalies in the postseason.
A name that few likely knew as recently as two months ago, Hill wasn’t even dressed for the first round. Laurent Brossoit was injured early in Game 3 of the second round against Edmonton, thrusting Hill into the lead role.
Since then, he has gone 10-4, giving up just over two goals per game and has been arguably the best goalie in this series, a reflection, he said, of the Golden Knights’ defense this season.
“We’ve been a great defensive team all year,” Hill said. “Just the dedication that we have on our own end. It just shows. Guys come up with huge blocks. Even Marty had one there at the start of the third period. That was unreal. It was a full slap shot and he took it like a man.”
Florida’s Sergei Bobrovsky, a two-time Vezina trophy winner, struggled in the first two games and was benched in Game 2 after allowing four goals on 13 shots to the Golden Knights. With his team down 0-2, Bobrovsky seemed to return to his early-playoffs form. He blocked 53 of 58 shots in the past two games and kept the Panthers close enough Saturday to nearly stage a comeback.
“It was definitely an unfortunate loss,” Bobrovsky said, “but we’ve been in this position before. It all comes down to one moment at a time, one period at a time.”
Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said the Golden Knights would have loved for the game to have not been as close as it was.
“But that’s hockey, right?” he added.
Tony Winton is the editor-in-chief of the Key Biscayne Independent and president of Miami Fourth Estate, Inc. He worked previously at The Associated Press for three decades winning multiple Edward R. Murrow awards. He was president of the News Media Guild, a journalism union, for 10 years. Born in Chicago, he is a graduate of Columbia University. His interests are photography and technology, sailing, cooking, and science fiction.