Panthers avert collapse to edge Oilers in Game 7 and lift Stanley Cup

Panthers prevented Oilers becoming only the second team in history to win after falling behind 3-0 in the finals
Panthers prevented Oilers becoming only the second team in history to win after falling behind 3-0 in the finalsReuters
When the final buzzer sounded and the Florida Panthers hoisted the Stanley Cup, all of the frustrations of needing a fourth chance to close the final series were washed away.

Thanks to their 2-1 Game 7 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Monday, the Panthers earned the last victory needed in a best-of-seven series they led 3-0 before losing three consecutive clashes en route to the deciding affair in Sunrise, Fla.

"I was dreaming all my life for that, and here we are," Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky told Sportsnet amidst the on-ice celebrations. "I can't even believe it."

Florida defenseman Aaron Ekblad added, "It's incredible. It's amazing. This is the best part of my life so far. Nothing tops it."

Carter Verhaeghe scored one goal and assisted on Sam Reinhart's second-period Cup-winning tally for the Panthers, who claimed the first Stanley Cup title in franchise history. Bobrovsky made 23 saves, nine in the final frame. His biggest play was a diving stop on Zach Hyman during a scramble at his net with seven minutes remaining.

Mattias Janmark scored for Edmonton, while goalie Stuart Skinner stopped 19 shots. Captain Connor McDavid was held without a point for the second consecutive game but was named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the playoff Most Valuable Player after netting 42 points during the run that was extended against all odds.

"We knew it was going to be tight, Game 7 for the Cup," McDavid said. "You knew it was going to be a tight game and would come down to one thing here and there. We're an inch away from going ahead 2-1 right before they go ahead. It's tough."

The Oilers, who were attempting to become only the second team in history and first since 1942 to win after falling behind 3-0 in the finals, lost in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final their last two trips. They also fell just short in 2006 against the Carolina Hurricanes.

"I don't know what to say," Edmonton forward Leon Draisaitl said. "It's heartbreaking. We were right there."

After the clubs traded first-period goals, Reinhart notched the deciding goal at 15:11 of the middle frame when he found the mark from just beyond the right faceoff dot for his 10th of the playoffs.

The Oilers dominated the third period but could not find the equalizer in the entertaining affair despite a litany of action at the Florida net. That lead to the celebration in South Florida one year after the Panthers lost to the Vegas Golden Knights in the finals.

"It's not what I thought it would be. It's so much better," said Florida coach Paul Maurice, who claimed his first Cup and has a 5-0 record in Game 7s.

Winning the series after blowing a 3-0 lead adds an extra element to Florida's victory.

"The toughest 12 days of our lives, honestly," Reinhart said. "They pushed. All the credit in the world, they made it as hard as it should be to win the Stanley Cup."

Instead of repeating history with a completed comeback, the Oilers are only the second team in history to force a Game 7 after trailing 3-0 in the finals before losing the deciding clash. Detroit pushed Toronto to a Game 7 in that scenario in 1945, three years after the Maple Leafs rallied from three games down to top the Red Wings in the finals.

"An amazing group. An amazing group of guys," Draisaitl said. "So much character. It's hard to put into words how much character there is in the room. I'm just really, really proud. We stuck with it all year and battled all the way to the end."

Edmonton's defeat extends the string of years since a Canadian team last won the Stanley Cup to 31. The Montreal Canadiens last brought the Cup north in 1993.


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