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Panthers hold off Oilers to take 3-0 lead in Stanley Cup final

Aleksander Barkov skates with the puck defended by Edmonton Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse and defenceman Philip Broberg
Aleksander Barkov skates with the puck defended by Edmonton Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse and defenceman Philip Broberg Reuters
The Stanley Cup will be on hand when the visiting Florida Panthers hit the ice to face the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday. Thanks to Florida's 4-3 victory over Edmonton on Thursday, the Panthers are one win from hoisting hockey's Holy Grail and claiming the first title in franchise history. They lead the best-of-seven Stanley Cup final 3-0 and have the opportunity to post the first finals sweep since 1998.

"You gotta love it. You have to love having the chance," Florida forward Evan Rodrigues told NHL Network. "It's gonna be in the building and you've gotta embrace it... It's gonna be exciting."

Game 3 featured a harrowing finish for the Panthers, who saw a 4-1 lead going into the third period become a one-goal game, but they managed to shut the door on the high-octane Oilers, with goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky holding strong to the final buzzer.

"They have the capability to push like that and we needed some luck, we needed some help there, and Bobby was unbelievable for us there," Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov said. "I know they scored a couple goals, but it's OK now. We won the game."

Barkov and Sam Reinhart each collected one goal and one assist while Vladimir Tarasenko and Sam Bennett added a goal apiece for Florida. Bobrovsky made 32 saves.

Warren Foegele, Philip Broberg and Ryan McLeod scored for the Oilers, and goalie Stuart Skinner stopped 19 shots. Connor McDavid collected two assists.

With the score tied 1-1, the Panthers pulled away thanks to a trio of second-period goals by Tarasenko, Bennett and Barkov.

Edmonton made a furious third-period push, but Bobrovsky - who boasts a 1.33 goals-against average and .953 save percentage in the series - shut the door.

"They're a very skilful offensive team," Bobrovsky said. "They're smart guys and are going to make plays. You just focus on each and every moment. It's a fun challenge. It's a fun challenge to play against them."

The late push ended up too little, too late, but all the Oilers can do is hope to build momentum from it.

"It is disappointing being down 3-0. We've got to let that reality sink in," Skinner said. "I'm not too sure what the stats are about coming back from it, but if anyone can do it, it's the Oil."

Teams holding a 3-0 lead in the finals have won 27 of 28 series. The lone team to rally was the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, who came back to beat the Detroit Red Wings.

To go against that trend, the Oilers must find a way to stop Florida's attack - which has netted 11 goals in three games - and also solve Bobrovsky, who also delivered a handful of clutch saves when it was a tie game in the second period.

As much as the Oilers have generated opportunities, they are struggling mightily to light the lamp. McDavid has been held to three points, all on assists, while Leon Draisaitl has failed to hit the scoresheet. Edmonton's vaunted power play that thrived in the first three rounds of the playoffs (19-for-51, 37.3 percent) has been blanked with 10 opportunities during the finals.

"I pride myself on being good in the playoffs and playing well. Just can't seem to get anything going," Draisaitl said. "I have to look in the mirror and try to be better."

Time is running out to find that missing offence and turn around the series.

"We've got to get ready for a game," McDavid said. "Get ready for Game 4 and get a win. That's all we can do."

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