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2024 Stanley Cup Final

Power Play Help: Florida Panthers Banking on Ekman-Larsson



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Oliver Ekman-Larsson, here celebrates an overtime goal with Evan Rodrigues against the New York Islanders, is back quarterbacking the Florida power play. // Photo courtesy @FlaPanthers

FORT LAUDERDALE — The Florida Panthers will try something new on the power play going into Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Edmonton Oilers.

Well, something that has worked in the past.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson ran Florida’s top power-play unit at the start of the season until Brandon Montour returned from offseason surgery.

With Florida’s power play struggling to score against the Oilers’ top-ranked penalty kill, the Panthers put Ekman-Larsson back up top for their final power play try of Game 5 on Tuesday night.

Coach Paul Maurice said Ekman-Larsson “used to drive me nuts” when he ran the Arizona and Vancouver power plays — and hopes OEL gives the Oilers fits tonight.

“This is what he’s done for his entire life,’’ Maurice said. “When we were out in the West, ee’d see their team a bunch of times and he gets across the top of the power play, and you’ve got to get in the shot lane, you just have to. And we just could never get in the shot lane, and he would find holes.

“And if it wasn’t there, he wouldn’t force it. The composure that he has at the top I think sets him apart, and he’s relishing it. It’s back in his wheelhouse. We liked it. We ran him there. I think we had a piece of the power play that he went out on later in the game and we liked the way that looked.”

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The Panthers are 1-for-16 on the power play in this series, with Maurice hinting at more changes than just Ekman-Larsson.

In Thursday’s pre-flight practice, Ekman-Larsson was the only change.

But it is a big one; Montour is a right-handed shot and Ekman-Larsson is a lefty.

That gives a different look. Both he and Montour have exceptional point shots.

“He’s a good option there,’’ Sasha Barkov said. “He knows what to do there, so that’s pretty good.’’

This has been a pretty eventful year for Ekman-Larsson who, just last June, was part of the biggest buyout in NHL history when the Vancouver Canucks wrote off the final four years of his contract.

Ekman-Larsson, who signed a one-year deal with the Panthers on July 1, will count against the Vancouver salary cap for the next seven seasons.

He is also getting his first shot at the Stanley Cup and is seeing his responsibilities increase.

“You see the veteran rise to the occasion,’’ Maurice said. “That’s not just in the game, you see them practice, moving around about the rink. This is big for him, right? He’s been in the league a long time, is very, very excited.

“There are players that just embrace it and you start to see their best. He’s skating as well as he has skated all year. He’s jumping into holes, he’s playing with no fear. It’s great leadership.”

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