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2024 Stanley Cup Final

Panthers, Oilers Get Physical in Battle for the Stanley Cup



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Edmonton Oilers defenseman Brett Kulak throws a punch at Florida center Kevin Stenlund during the third period of Game 2 on Monday night in Sunrise. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

FORT LAUDERDALE — Leon Draisaitl launching himself into the grill of Sasha Barkov is the play which may define the first two games of this Stanley Cup Final, but the Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers has had plenty more hits in the first two games.

They wouldn’t have it any other way.

With so much on the line, both teams are throwing their bodies in front of 85-mph slap shots in front of their goalies — and throwing their bodies at each other.

This is the time of year where NHL players will do anything they have to do to win.

“It’s the Stanley Cup Final,’’ Kyle Okposo said. “I think both teams are pretty desperate to win, obviously, and emotions are going to be high and ratcheted up, and we’re looking forward to game three.’’

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Although Game 2 had its share of big hits — from Draisaitl and Barkov, Warren Foegele sending Eetu Luostarinen sprawling, Sam Carrick getting up close and personal with Dmitry Kulikov, and Aaron Ekblad putting Evan Bouchard in a chokehold — this series has yet to really get going.

Like coach Paul Maurice said, this is not the Boston series.

Now that was personal.

“The intensity, possibly,’’ Maurice said. “There were fights in the pregame meal in that one. I haven’t been a part of something like that Boston series. … Both teams understand the value of staying out of the penalty box, so there’s going to be big hits because that’s the intensity of the game.

“It’s more of a skating-speed series. That’s not going to change. Sure, some more hits get finished. But we’re not going out of our way to do it; neither are they. There’s no sending messages, there’s no setting tones. It is whatever you’ve got to do to win a game.”

After Draisaitl’s hit on the Florida captain, some wonder whether Florida is going to chase down the Oilers to exact some measure of revenge.

Last year, the could have been the case.

“We were too worried about running around in that series instead of focusing on winning,” Carter Verhaeghe said of last year’s Final loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.

The Panthers have been in this position before this postseason and have, for the most part, left well enough alone.

That does not mean they are going to be invite to join a choir any time soon.

The Panthers are a very physical team and will drop the mitts whenever they feel the situation invites.

But taking dumb penalties is not in their interests.

“I think we just have to stay out of it,’’ Luostarinen said. “Just do our thing and then let them do try to do stupid stuff like that. Just be disciplined.”

For More FHN Coverage of the Florida Panthers:

Panthers Lead Best of 7 Series 2-0
  • When: Thursday, 8 p.m.
  • Where: Rogers Place; Edmonton, Alberta
  • National TV: ABC
  • Streaming: ESPN+/Hulu
  • Radio: WQAM 560-AM; WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (West Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); WCZR 101.7-FM (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • Series Schedule, All Games 8 p.m. on ABC — Game 1: @Florida 3, Edmonton 0; Game 2: @Florida 4, Edmonton 1; Game 3: Florida at Edmonton, Thursday; Game 4:Florida at Edmonton, Saturday June 15; Game 5*: Edmonton at Florida, Tuesday June 18; Game 6*:Florida at Edmonton, Friday June 21; Game 7*: Edmonton at Florida, Monday June 24. (*) – If Necessary
  • How They Got Here — Florida: d. Tampa Bay 4-1, Boston 4-2, New York Rangers 4-2; Edmonton: d. Los Angeles 4-1, Vancouver 4-3, Dallas 4-2.
  • This Season (Florida Won 2-0) — At Florida: Panthers 5, Oilers 3 (Nov. 20). At Edmonton: Panthers 5, Oilers 2 (Dec. 17).
  • Last Season: Edmonton Won 2-0
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Oilers lead 23-16-0, 3 ties
  • Postseason History: First Meeting

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