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2024 Stanley Cup Final

Oilers Come Out Hungry in Game 6. Panthers Better in Game 7



Panthers oilers
Sasha Barkov and Leon Draisaitl battle for a face off in the first period of Game 6 on Friday night in Edmonton. (Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire)

EDMONTON — The Florida Panthers would have brought the Stanley Cup home with them with a win over the Oilers in Game 6 on Friday night.

Yet, when facing elimination, the Oilers have come to play.

The Panthers better bring it Monday as this series is now going to its limit.

A win away from the Stanley Cup for a third-straight game, the Panthers came out flat in Game 6 and will head home with their third straight loss — this one 5-1.

Florida was outshot 11-2 in the first period, did not get a single shot on goal from a forward until the midway point of the game, and will now be tasked with playing Game 7 on home ice after holding a once-commanding 3-0 series lead.

“They came out hungrier than us. I mean, they wanted it,” Carter Verhaeghe said. “That was kind of it. I think we didn’t get to our forecheck at the start and they took it to us. I think it’s for us to look at it and get better and I think we need some better starts.”

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That much was apparent from the moment Warren Foegele gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead 7:27 into the game following one of many Florida mistakes near the blue line.

The Panthers got an opportunity on the power play less than a minute later, did nothing with it, and proceeded to be held without a shot for a stretch of 14-plus minutes.

“I think we were lacking a bit of offensive speed,” coach Paul Maurice said when pressed about the power play. “Then that would be true of our 5-on-5 game. We’re getting jammed into corners, so we’ll look at places where we can generate speed or keep our speed.”

It has been a running theme both at even strength and on the power play over the past three games for the Panthers.

Florida is 0-for-10 on the power play since Game 4 and 1-for-19 with the man advantage throughout the entirety of the series. The Panthers have also been outscored 5-1 in the first period of each of the past three games.

“Yeah, they [come out hot], but it is what it is,” Dmitry Kulikov said. “We just have to match it and then go from there because we get better as the game goes on. Just got to match it or do better.”

To make matters worse for the Panthers, the Oilers struck 46 seconds into the second period to dig them into a 2-0 hole. Sasha Barkov appeared to bring them back within a goal 10 seconds later, but the goal was called back after a lengthy offside review.

“I had no idea [I was offside], no,” Verhaeghe said. “I mean, it sucks that it didn’t go our way, but I mean, it’s above my head. I don’t know. They obviously got the right call. I’m sure it’s the right call if they’re watching a million replays.”

Coach Paul Maurice said afterward that the play was so close that he would not have challenged it himself.

But again, the Panthers had to deal with the cards they were dealt, and they handled it poorly.

They couldn’t generate much offensively and Zach Hyman struck on a breakaway with 1:40 to go in the second period off of a blocked Gus Forsling shot near the blue line to put a dagger in the Panthers.

The Panthers found their game in the second period — outplaying the Oilers after Barkov got them on the board 1:26 into the period — but their climb back proved futile.

Edmonton holds all of the momentum in this series as Florida limps back home for a Game 7.

It took 10 seconds for Kulikov to come up with an answer for how the team is feeling after blowing a lead like that, as it did other players.

The Panthers looked defeated when they went into the locker room, and Game 7 hasn’t even started yet.

“Mood in the locker room?” Kulikov said after a somber pause. “We’re here now. It’s one game to go. We were ready from the start to play a seven-game series and nothing changes now. We got up three and they played three good games. Now it’s up to us to win at home.”

Maurice is not concerned with the emotion from his team. Or, at least, that’s what he is saying.

He has seen his team with its back against the wall plenty of times throughout the past two years — down 3-1 against the Boston Bruins, down 2-1 to the New York Rangers after two consecutive OT losses — but at the same time, none of those situations are like this.

But he is still confident they can get through what could be a historic meltdown.

”Right now, if you walked in the room, there wouldn’t be a lot of happy people,” Maurice said.

 “And I’m not worried about it tonight. It doesn’t have to be right tonight. You suffered a defeat, you feel it, it hurts. You lick your wounds and then we start building that back tomorrow, but who you are tonight means nothing to who you are going to be two days from now.”

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