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Sergei Bobrovsky shined as Panthers blank Oilers in the Stanley Cup final

Sergei Bobrovsky shined as Panthers blank Oilers in the Stanley Cup final
Sergei Bobrovsky shined as Panthers blank Oilers in the Stanley Cup final

 


Sergei Bobrovsky made 32 saves and recorded the third playoff shutout of his career as the Florida Panthers defeated the visiting Edmonton Oilers 3-0 on Saturday to take a 1-0 lead in the Stanley Cup final.

Carter Verhaeghe, Evan Rodrigues and Eetu Luostarinen scored into an empty net for Florida. Aleksander Barkov had two assists.

“Unbelievable,” said Florida forward Sam Bennett, referring to Bobrovsky's performance. “We have so much belief and he gives us so much energy. It's great to see him perform in net. He's been a star all year.”

Added Panthers winger Matthew Tkachuk: “Everything you want in a teammate, especially a goaltender.”

Stuart Skinner stopped 15 shots for Edmonton.

“They're a great offensive team,” Bobrovsky said after earning his second shutout of the 2024 postseason. “They bring the right challenge.”

Game 2 of a title series with the longest distance between rival cities in NHL history returns Monday to Amerant Arena before the best-of-seven series shifts to Alberta's capital.

WATCH lBobrovsky's third career shutout in the playoffs as Panthers top Oilers:

Panthers' Sergei Bobrovsky keeps Oilers shutout in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final

Sergei Bobrovsky made 32 saves for his third career shutout in the playoffs. Panthers lead Oilers 1-0 in Stanley Cup Final.

The Oilers are in the finals for the first time since 2006 and are looking for their first sip of hockey's holy grail since winning the franchise's fifth Cup in 1990.

“Game 1s of series are always unique because you don't know what to expect,” Oilers left wing Zach Hyman said. “You hear all about what the team is doing. You watch videos. But you haven't played them in months. As the series goes on, you know pretty well what works and what doesn't work.”

McDavid couldn't solve Bobrovsky

For stars like Connor McDavid, a generational talent who has been under pressure since he entered the league nine years ago, the game has started to return to normal.

McDavid showed off his unparalleled acceleration in the opening period when he slipped past Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad for a one-on-one opportunity with Bobrovsky, but he was denied in a theme that repeated itself all night.

Even McDavid, who leads all scorers in the postseason with 31 points, couldn't break through Florida's defense despite no shortage of chances.

“I felt like there was a lot to like, to be honest,” said McDavid, the three-time league MVP playing in his first finals. “I felt like we had a lot of presence and didn't give up too much. What we gave up was dangerous and they took advantage of it, as good teams do.”

McDavid added that Edmonton's effort Saturday showed the Oilers won't let their lack of experience compared to the Panthers hold them back.

“I know how many people have given us a chance in this series,” McDavid said, “and I think we showed tonight that we can play with them. That's a confidence boost for this group, but we know that our best can play with anyone.” “

The Panthers never climbed the NHL mountain again after their championship games in 1996 and 2023.

Florida opened the scoring at 3:59 of the first period when Verhaeghe scored his 10th goal of the postseason on a smooth feed from Barkov on the home team's first shot.

Oil companies looking to bring Cup back to Canada

The Oilers, looking to become the first Canadian team to bring the Cup across the border since the 1993 Montreal Canadiens, controlled much of the action from there but couldn't solve Bobrovsky.

The Panthers goalkeeper denied McDavid a decent chance before Edmonton center Adam Henrique crushed Florida defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson with a big hit behind the net.

Edmonton killed its 29th straight penalty later in the period before Henrique was denied by Bobrovsky on a breakaway and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was stoned on a power-play move to the backhand as the Panthers went more than 10 minutes without a shot.

Edmonton's torrid man advantage couldn't connect on an opportunity that stretched from late in the first to early in the second. Hyman shot high from close range with Bobrovsky down and out before Florida doubled the lead.

Bennett beat Oilers defenseman Cody Ceci with the puck in the corner and caught both Darnell Nurse and Evander Kane napping in front of Rodrigues to score his fourth goal of the playoffs at 2:16.

Bobrovsky then went to work, stopping a Bouchard chance that was knocked out of the air, a Ceci blast that appeared to hit teammate Corey Perry in the crease.

Bennett then defeated McDavid, his minor hockey teammate who grew up in the Greater Toronto Area, with a solid check.

Five male hockey players celebrate a goal at the glass that separates the rink from the fans.
Evan Rodrigues, second from right, celebrates his goal against the Edmonton Oilers with teammates during the second period. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Things got a little nasty in what was expected to be a physical series when Connor Brown pushed both Bobrovsky and the frozen puck into the Florida net in a sequence that was immediately waved away.

In the finals for the second time in 12 months after falling to the Vegas Golden Knights last June, the Panthers found themselves under siege on another power play in Edmonton, with a top rating of 37.3 percent in the playoffs which started later in the period on Saturday.

Bobrovsky stopped McDavid and Bouchard before Nugent-Hopkins shot high over the net. Warren Foegele had a pair of chances moments later, which the 35-year-old netminder also thwarted as fans at Amerant Arena chanted his name as the Oilers led 26-12 on the shot clock through 40 minutes.

Bobrovsky held on early in the third with a save on McDavid on a layup by Leon Drasaitl.

Edmonton completed its 30th straight power play later in the period and had a few more chances at the other end, but still couldn't solve the Florida netminder before Luostarinen put the ball away late.

“Maybe it was the hockey gods that brought us back for Game 6 [versus Dallas]” McDavid said, referring to Edmonton's performance in the decisive Game 6 of the Western Conference finals, “where we probably didn't deserve to win. Tonight we deserved maybe at least one goal, maybe two, and we can't find a way to score them.”

The winner of Game 1 in a best-of-seven final has an all-time series record of 64-20 (.762). The last three cup winners won the opener, but all three from 2018 to 2020 recovered from 1-0 deficits.

The cup was on the ice before the opening game for the first time since the 1960s. It appeared in the stands prior to Game 1 of the 2020 finals in Edmonton's fanless COVID-19 bubble.

WATCH l Oilers have a chance to do what no Canadian hockey team has done in 31 years:

What you need to know about the Edmonton Oilers' fight for the Stanley Cup Final

Playing for the Stanley Cup, the Edmonton Oilers have a chance to do something no Canadian hockey team has done in 31 years: win the whole damn thing.

Sources

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2/ https://www.cbc.ca/sports/hockey/nhl/oilers-panthers-stanley-cup-game-1-jun-8-1.7229392

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