Edmonton Oilers fall short against poise of experienced Florida Panthers, drop Game 1 of Cup final

SUNRISE, Fla. — Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final was an eye-opener for the Edmonton Oilers.

Unlike the Florida Panthers — who got a taste of the final just a year ago — only a handful of Oilers players have ever experienced Game 1 of a championship series: The energy. The pressure. The intensity.

It showed, and in Edmonton’s first Cup final game since 2006, the Oilers had plenty of opportunities but could not finish, falling 3-0 to the swarming and stifling Panthers in Game 1.

For stars like Connor McDavid, a generational talent who has faced pressure since the moment he entered the league nine years ago, the game started business as usual.

McDavid showed off his unmatched acceleration in the opening period when he slipped past Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad for a one-on-one chance with goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, only to be denied in a theme that repeated itself throughout the night.

Even McDavid, who leads all scorers in the postseason with 31 points, couldn’t cut through the Florida defense despite no shortage of chances.

The Panthers showed why they made it to the final a year ago — and it was clear that the bittersweet memory of losing to the Vegas Golden Knights in five games is still fresh.

In all, Edmonton sent 32 shots at the 35-year-old Bobrovsky. He stopped all of them. Even in the rare moments when the Oilers got him out of position, the two-time Vezina trophy winner made big save after big save, which was a clear source of frustration for the Western conference winners.

Connor Brown looked to put Edmonton on the board in the second period when he jammed the puck under Bobrovsky’s right pad — right after the goalie had saved a wrist shot from Mattias Janmark — but the goal was waved off as it appeared that Brown had shoved Bobrovsky into the net with the puck.

Then a brief scuffle broke out, and a frustrated Janmark and Brown were both assessed penalties along, with Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Kevin Stenlund of the Panthers.

It was an example of the Oilers doing the right things to win, just not enough.

They stretched their franchise-best penalty-kill streak to 30, killing off all three of Florida’s power plays.

But their power play that had been so effective throughout the postseason was fruitless. Edmonton, which entered the game converting at a postseason-leading 37.3% was 0 for 3 on the man advantage Saturday night.


AP NHL playoffs: https://apnews.com/hub/stanley-cup and https://www.apnews.com/hub/NHL

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