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Stanley Cup Final: Panthers better prepared for second chance at closing out Oilers

Stanley Cup Final: Panthers better prepared for second chance at closing out Oilers

When Darnell Nurse's goal 4:59 into the second period of Game 4 gave the Edmonton Oilers a 5-1 lead, the Florida Panthers moved their thoughts to Tuesday's Game 5 (8 p.m. ET; ABC).

Panthers head coach Paul Maurice pulled Sergei Bobrovsky to get him away from what was becoming a thrashing and for the goaltender to begin focusing on a bounce-back night.

A second opportunity is here for the Panthers to win the Stanley Cup. Amerant Bank Arena will be full of nervously excited fans hoping to see their team win its first title. If recent history is any indication, there's a chance that Gary Bettman will be on the ice presenting the Cup on Tuesday.

Since 2010, only three teams — Chicago Blackhawks (2015), Washington Capitals (2018), Vegas Golden Knights (2023) — took advantage of their first opportunity to close out the Cup Final. Six teams lost that initial chance but capitalized in the next game to end the series.

Only one team during that span, the Vancouver Canucks (2011), had a 3-2 series lead and ended up losing the Cup Final.

The Panthers have another opportunity to win the first Stanley Cup in franchise history in Game 5 against the Oilers. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Panthers know it won't be easy and they can tell themselves that they'll chalk up Game 4 to inexperience, for most, in that situation.

"It is different. What's foremost in your head coming to the rink? That it's there, right?" Maurice said. "So we went through it, and it's not something you can truly appreciate until you go through it."

What the Panthers will have in the back of their minds is how they get back to what they did well in Games 1-3: aggressively forechecking to force defensive mistakes, good goaltending and limiting Edmonton's superstars from waking up and creating havoc.

That's how Game 4 went, with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl combining for six points. If those two can make the most of their chances while also creating space for teammates to get opportunities, Bobrovsky will have to be at his best, like he was in Game 1.

Putting up eight goals in a game has given the Oilers confidence that they can find holes in Bobrovsky's game going forward.

"I think we just finally unlocked being able to get past this guy. He's been playing so well," said Oilers forward Dylan Holloway. "We knew at some point we were going to break through. We've got so much skill that I think we were due. But at the same time, he's such a good goalie that you never know. I mean, he can steal games."

There's no room for error any longer for the Oilers — no more games to lose. The Panthers will be prepared for another desperate game from their opponents and they understand the reward waiting for them with just one more win.

“We’ve got the Stanley Cup on the line,” said forward Evan Rodrigues. “Kind of a ‘How badly do you want it?’-type deal. There was a lot of energy going into that game. I think we’ll be better prepared for Game 5.”

Game 1: Panthers 3, Oilers 0
Game 2: Panthers 4, Oilers 1
Game 3: Panthers 4, Oilers 3
Game 4: Oilers 8, Panthers 1
Game 5: Oilers at Panthers | Tuesday, June 18, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+)
*Game 6: Panthers at Oilers | Friday, June 21, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+)
*Game 7: Oilers at Panthers | Monday, June 24, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+)

(*if necessary)

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