Bobrovsky brilliant as Panthers down Oilers in Stanley Cup Final opener

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Bobrovsky brilliant as Panthers down Oilers in Stanley Cup Final opener

Bobrovsky was unbeatable
Bobrovsky was unbeatable Reuters
Florida goalie Sergei Bobrovsky made 32 saves and the Panthers shut out the Edmonton Oilers 3-0 on Saturday in game one of the NHL Stanley Cup Final.

Bobrovsky notched his second shut-out of these playoffs, frustrating three-time NHL Most Valuable Player Connor McDavid and the rest of an Edmonton team that was averaging 3.5 goals per game heading into the best-of-seven championship series.

Carter Verhaeghe and Evan Rodrigues scored on two of the Panthers' first five shots and Eetu Luostarinen added an empty-net goal to seal the win against an Oilers team that dominated much of the night.

"They obviously have an elite offence, it was a really hard game," said Bobrovsky, who was serenaded with chants of "Bobby! Bobby!" as he delivered an array of highlight-reel saves.

"They're really smart players and it was a fun challenge."

The Panthers got off to a nervy start but struck on their first shot. Verhaeghe scored his 10th goal of the playoffs with a wrist shot past Edmonton goalie Stuart Skinner off a pass from Aleksander Barkov at 3:59 of the first period.

Barkov had launched the play, powering into the zone and passing to Sam Reinhart. Reinhart passed back to Barkov who flipped the puck across the crease to a wide-open Verhaeghe.

Bobrovsky preserved the lead when he denied McDavid minutes later, his 14 saves in the first period ensuring Edmonton went unrewarded for their strong start to the contest.

The Oilers had a golden chance on the power-play with four minutes left in the first. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins thundered in on a breakaway but Bobrovsky turned his shot away with his left pad.

Edmonton had a man advantage starting the second period but came up empty again as Bobrovsky made a big save on Zach Hyman.

Moments after the power play expired the Panthers made it 2-0, Rodrigues taking advantage of an Edmonton turnover in their own zone to double the advantage at 2:15 of the second.

The Oilers thought they had pulled a goal back when Connor Brown pushed a loose puck - and Bobrovsky - into the net after the Florida goalie's save on Mattias Janmark, but the referee waved it off and a brief shoving match ensued with four players - two from each team - receiving roughing penalties.

Soon after Sam Bennett was called for interference to give Edmonton a third power play opportunity, but once again Bobrovsky came through.

"Lots to like"

It was the first shutout in game one of a Stanley Cup Final since Vancouver's Roberto Luongo stopped all 36 shots he faced in 2011 against Boston.

McDavid, who has 31 points from five goals and 26 assists this post-season, was held without a point for the first time in five games.

"There was lots to like," the Oilers superstar said. "We generated chances, we had looks. Not a ton of puck luck around their net, some weird plays in there. But they're a good team. Give them credit, they did enough to win."

The Oilers are trying to become the first Canadian team to capture the trophy since the Montreal Canadiens in 1993. Six Canadian clubs have lost in the final since then.

The Panthers, in the championship series for a second straight year, after falling in five games last season to Vegas, host game two on Monday.

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