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2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Emotions in the Stanley Cup Final Run Hot. ‘The Juice of the Job’



Stanley cup
Matthew Tkachuk dives to keep the puck out of the net in the final seconds of Game 5 on Tuesday — but Connor McDavid gets to it anyway. Florida GM Bill Zito reacts to the loss. // NHL on SN, AP photo

FORT LAUDERDALE — When the Florida Panthers made it a 1-goal game against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night, Amerant Bank was jumping.

The Panthers kept pushing throughout the third period, fighting for every inch of ice to tie Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final and give themselves a chance at a prize they have been dreaming of since they were little children.

The desperation was fully displayed in the final minute when Zach Hyman flipped a puck the length of the ice toward the empty net.

Matthew Tkachuk chased it down, diving and sweeping it off the goal line to keep it out of the net, crashing into the cage.

However, the puck ended up on Connor McDavid’s stick, and it would not stay out of the net for long.

McDavid got in front of Oliver Ekman-Larsson and fired the puck past a now-upright Tkachuk. 

The Oilers had a 5-3 lead with 18.3 seconds left.


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Cameras panned to the arena’s suite level, where general manager Bill Zito and some of his front office staff were watching the game.

Last year, Zito and his cohorts were shown jumping up and down like kids following close playoff wins.

What was captured Tuesday was not that.

Zito grabs his phone after the puck goes in; Florida’s chances of winning this game are gone.

Three bottles of water were on a table, and Zito, in an understandable fit of frustration, fired one against the wall.

In the playoffs, especially right now, the margins are extremely thin. Close is nowhere good enough.

Losses hurt. Losses suck. This loss means another 6-hour flight to Edmonton for Game 6.

The Panthers still have plenty to feel good about. They are, after all, one win away from winning the Stanley Cup.

At that moment, it was not something Zito wanted to hear.

And an innocent bottle of water paid the price.

It was not alone. Several things got thrown around the Florida dressing room when the loss was complete — and there were probably a few garbage cans kicked in frustration.

Wednesday was a new day.

The Panthers put things back into perspective and got back to work trying to win the next one.

“Yeah, it’s real man. It’s there,’’ coach Paul Maurice said. “You got an adrenaline dump before the game starts, and you’re heavily caffeinated. It’s what pro sports is.

“It’s the juice of the job. It’s easily the best part of it. You can’t manufacture it any other way. … That’s awesome, right? Even when you’re growling at 3 in the morning, that’s good. You’re alive. It’s a good thing.”

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