LAS VEGAS -- The Vegas Golden Knights' pregame introductions have become the NHL's most anticipated and kitschiest celebrations during the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The expansion darlings found a new way to dazzle the home crowd before a 6-4 win in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Washington Capitals on Monday. Against the Winnipeg Jets in the Western Conference finals, the games opened with a knight slicing through a CGI jet flying across the ice.
For the Capitals, the intro featured five "evil" warriors wearing Capitals flags lining up on the ice to take on the Golden Knight. A yellow spotlight fell on a corner of the arena, where a large functioning catapult "fired" on the ice, and the interlopers were dispersed by CGI flames.
That might have been the most grandiose moment, but the introduction had plenty of other showmanship:
• Before the game, rapper Lil Jon performed outside the arena in front of thousands of fans in a performance that started with a drumline conga line that snaked through the Park MGM casino across from T-Mobile Arena.
• The Knights continued their tradition of playing sound bites from those who doubted them during their playoff run, including Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty's now infamous "There's no way they are going to be a better team than us by the end of the season." There was a new addition: Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck said, "The stars are aligning for them, but it's not going to stay that way." The Knights eliminated the Jets in five games.
• Announcer Michael Buffer introduced both lineups, treating them as he would a boxing match. He said the Capitals were "wearing white, clad in red and blue trim." He also asked the crowd, in his trademark line, if they were "ready to rumble."
• The national anthem had a battle of traditions. Capitals fans screamed out "red!" and "oh!" as is tradition at their home games. Vegas fans yelled "Knights!" at the appropriated time, as is tradition at their home games.
• The Knights played two pregame videos they have shown throughout the postseason. One chronicles the bond between the team and the city, including appearances by first responders and "Vegas Strong" logos that commemorate the mass shooting on Oct. 1 on the Las Vegas Strip. The second was a collection of celebrity welcoming messages, including one that had extra resonance considering the Golden Knights' opponents: Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper, a Las Vegas native, whose appearance in a Golden Knights shirt drew a loud ovation from the fans.