Panthers win their 1st Stanley Cup, top Oilers in Game 7 to avoid historic collapse

Panthers win their 1st Stanley Cup, top Oilers in Game 7 to avoid historic collapse

No collapse took place. For the first time ever, the Florida Panthers are the Stanley Cup winners, and they achieved their victory via nearly the most difficult route.

In Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night, the Panthers defeated the Edmonton Oilers 2-1 thanks to goals from Sam Reinhart and Carter Verhaeghe, 23 saves from Sergei Bobrovsky. In its thirty-year history, Florida had made three appearances in the title round; it had been swept by Colorado in 1996 and humiliated 4-1 by Vegas in the previous season.

After averting what would have been a historic collapse, they were on the right side of history this time. The Panthers needed to win on Monday to avoid being one of the few teams, along with the 1942 Detroit Red Wings, to lose the championship round after building a 3-0 lead in the series. The Panthers had won the first three games of the series, but dropped the following three.

“It’s not what I anticipated,” Panthers head coach Paul Maurice remarked. “It’s incredibly superior.”

It was not simple. Not even near. However, it’s finished.

Aleksander Barkov, the captain of the Panthers, commented, “It’s heavy,” during his joyous first circuit around the Cup.

Not very weighty, but. After Barkov gave it to Bobrovsky, the festivities began. The Panthers had to wait until the very end to deprive Edmonton its first Cup since 1990 and Connor McDavid his first championship.

McDavid was given the Conn Smythe Award for MVP of the Stanley Cup playoffs. He failed to appear to accept the prize. In any case, it’s not the one he desired. They compete for the Cup, which was lifted by Florida.

It’s no longer a dream. This isn’t a dream. Forward Matthew Tkachuk of the Panthers, who was moved to Florida two summers ago with this as his objective, stated, “It’s a reality. It’s astounding. It seems unreal to me. How amazing these past two years have been is beyond words. I’m really grateful for these folks. This is the spot to be, best dudes. With all we have, this place is truly unique.

Stuart Skinner stopped 19 shots for the Oilers, while Mattias Janmark scored the goal for Edmonton. The Oilers were also unable to end Canada’s championship drought; the last time a Canadian-based club won the Cup was in 1993.

Thirty seasons ago, Montreal was the last team to accomplish it. Since then, seven teams from Canadian cities have attempted to win titles, all in vain: Vancouver in 1994 and 2011, Calgary in 2004, the Oilers in 2006, Ottawa in 2007, and the Canadiens in 2021.

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In terms of championships from the four major professional sports leagues in the United States, South Florida now has one of each: the Miami Heat (three), the Miami Dolphins (two), the former Florida Marlins (two), and now the Panthers (one). Welcome, Stanley. The Panthers have been waiting. Maurice lifted the Cup by the bench, squeezed his eyes shut to contain his emotions, and yelled. General manager Bill Zito didn’t even try to stop himself from yelling. And in the stands, Tkachuk’s family (his father, Keith, never won a Cup) delighted in the moment, realizing that their surname would soon be on Lord Stanley.

“This is for them,” Tkachuk said.

Bobrovsky was as cool as could be, even in the biggest moments. Oilers defenseman Evan Bouchard had a good look from the right circle with about 14 seconds left in the second period; Bobrovsky blocked the shot, and the puck bounced off him and into the air.

No problem. Bobrovsky took his stick and batted the puck away again, more like he was playing morning pickleball at a park than in the biggest game of his life — literally, the last line of defense against the Oilers, and against a piece of history that the Panthers desperately fought to avoid.

Florida led this title series 3-0, then got outscored 18-5 in Games 4, 5 and 6 to waste three chances at winning the Cup. Edmonton was one win away from becoming the second team in NHL history to win the Cup after dropping the first three games; Toronto did it to Detroit in 1942, and no team has pulled off such a comeback since.

To perform the national anthems, they invited seven-time Grammy winner Alanis Morissette, who was born in Canada and obtained dual citizenship with the United States in 2005. She was practically silent when the Oilers and Panthers supporters muffled her voice during “O Canada” and “The Star-Spangled Banner,” respectively. After that, they had Roberto Luongo, a former player for the Panthers, pound the ceremonial bass drum while pleading with the audience to “let’s go” and adding a phrase that needed to be repeated a few times.

“I just can’t believe we did it,” Barkov said.

The pregame was raucous. The stage was set.

And the teams came out absolutely ablaze. The Panthers got the first goal just 4:27 into the game when Verhaeghe waved his stick at the puck that was fired in from the left side by Evan Rodrigues and got just enough to redirect it past Skinner for a 1-0 lead — the first Florida lead since the end of Game 3.

They waited more than a week to be back on top. They stayed there for just over two minutes.

Janmark got behind the Florida defense and beat Bobrovsky over the right shoulder at 6:44, knotting things right back up and ensuring that this Game 7 of the final — like all 17 of the previous such games — wouldn’t end 1-0.

It stayed that way through wild ebbs and flows — the Oilers controlled long stretches, the Panthers would counter, back and forth — until Reinhart scored late in the second to put Florida up 2-1.

It ended an absurd sequence in which Dmitry Kulikov, a defender for Florida, ended up in the goal to assist stop an Edmonton goal just seconds before Reinhart beat Skinner. Reinhart extended his Florida single-season record with his 67th goal of the year, and it was up to the Panthers to keep it going.

Up before Monday, Florida’s record while leading after two periods this season was an NHL-best 44-0-3. a record of 85-2-6 in the NHL in those circumstances over the two seasons under coach Maurice.

For the final time, they shut the door firmly. And their prize was the Cup.

The experienced defender Aaron Ekblad of the Panthers commented, “This is the best moment of my life so far.” “It is the best of all.”

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