Florida Panthers defeat Edmonton Oilers in Game 7 to capture first Stanley Cup in franchise history

Damond Isiaka
5 Min Read


CNN
 — 

In a thrilling conclusion to the Stanley Cup Final, the Florida Panthers defeated the Edmonton Oilers, 2-1, in Game 7 to capture the first NHL championship in franchise history and avoid a historic collapse.

After racing to a 3-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Final, it seemed as if the Panthers would cruise to the franchise’s first title. However, struggles on both ends of the ice, combined with Edmonton outscoring Florida 18-5 during the three-game skid, erased their seemingly insurmountable lead and set up a dramatic Game 7.

Playing in front of a raucous crowd at Amerant Bank Arena, the Panthers struck first on Monday night – something they had not done since their last victory in Game 3. Carter Verhaeghe redirected an Evan Rodrigues shot, moments after Florida’s power play expired, for the 1-0 lead nearly four-and-a-half minutes into the first period.

Verhaeghe’s goal, his 11th of the Stanley Cup playoffs, tied the Panthers’ franchise record for the most in a single postseason.

Florida’s lead was short-lived, as Mattias Janmark answered with a breakaway goal just over two minutes later to level the game 1-1.

In the second period, the Oilers nearly took the lead when Warren Foegele’s shot at the net got past Panthers’ goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky but defenseman Dmitry Kulikov cleared it mere inches away before it crossed the goal line.

Kulikov’s incredible blind save opened the way for Sam Reinhart, who skated to the other end of the ice and buried the wrister from the right circle past Oilers netminder Stuart Skinner to give the Panthers the 2-1 lead at the 15:11 mark of the period.

For Reinhart, the goal was moment of redemption as he had failed to tally a point during the three-game skid – despite scoring a team-leading 57 goals in the regular season.

With every passing minute in the third period, Edmonton got close to scoring the equalizer on multiple occasions but just could not capitalize. Bobrovsky finished with 23 saves in the victory.

After losing in the final last year, and two other times prior to that, the Panthers finally captured the first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Florida becomes just the third team in the last 40 years to win the Stanley Cup a year after losing in the final.

“It’s not a dream anymore. It’s not a dream, it’s reality. I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it,” Panthers’ star Matthew Tkachuk said after the game. “I can believe how good these two years have been. I’m so thankful for this group of guys…something really special here with what we have.”

Edmonton's Stuart Skinner (left) makes a save from Florida's Sam Reinhart during Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Oilers’ Connor McDavid was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy after tallying 42 points – eight goals and 34 assists in 25 games. McDavid broke Wayne Gretzky’s NHL record for assists in a playoff year and became the third player in NHL history with 40+ points in a single postseason.

The Oilers were looking to become the second team in NHL history to come back from an 0-3 deficit in the Stanley Cup Final. Four teams have come back to win a series after falling behind 0-3 in NHL postseason history, but only once has a reverse sweep happened in the Stanley Cup Final – more than 80 years ago, when the Maple Leafs rallied to defeat the Red Wings in 1942.

With the loss, the three-decade Stanley Cup drought for Canadian teams continues. The Montreal Canadiens were the last to lift the Cup back in 1993.

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