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EDMONTON – The Florida Panthers’ lead in the Stanley Cup Final is gone. Their confidence seems to be, too.

The Panthers went right to work on their mental state in a locker room meeting following their 5-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers in Game 6 at Rogers Place on Friday, but, at this point, it must feel like they’re trying to stop a giant snowball rolling downhill against them. Edmonton has won three straight games to even the best-of-7 series and force a Game 7 at Amerant Bank Arena in Sunrise, Florida on Monday (8 p.m.; ABC, ESPN+, SN, TVAS, CBC).

“Well, right now if you walked into the room, there won’t be a lot of happy people,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said. “I’m not worried about [the players’ mental state] tonight. It doesn’t have to be right tonight. You’ve suffered a defeat, you feel it, it hurts. You lick your wounds, and we start building that back tomorrow.

“But who you are tonight means nothing to who you’re going to be two days from now.”

In the span of a week, the Panthers have gone from the verge of sweeping their way to their first championship to the verge of joining the 1942 Detroit Red Wings in an ignominious Stanley Cup Final history. Those Red Wings are the only previous team to lose in a best-of-7 Cup Final after winning the first three games, losing the last four to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Oilers have already joined the 1945 Red Wings (vs. the Maple Leafs) and the 1942 Maple Leafs as the only teams to force a Game 7 in a best-of-7 Cup Final after losing the first three games.

The determined Panthers team that was on a mission to win the Cup for the first time after losing to the Vegas Golden Knights in five games in the Final last season has unraveled in the past three games. After outscoring the Oilers 11-4 in winning the first three games, they’ve been outscored 18-5 in losing three straight.

They still have one chance left to salvage the series and avoid infamy, but will need to regroup and find a way to regain their composure.

“We just had a little chat with the team. I think we are still feeling good,” Panthers forward Eetu Luostarinen said. “We know what to do. We put ourselves in this situation, going home, excited to play the next game.”

Although the Panthers have said the right things after each of their losses, they haven’t been able find any answers to the Oilers’ desperation. Florida fell behind in the first period and never led in each of its first three attempts to close out the series.

The Panthers fell behind 3-0 Friday for the second straight game. Warren Foegele finished a 3-on-2 feed from Leon Draisaitl to give the Oilers a 1-0 lead at 7:27 of the first period. Adam Henrique’s 2-on-1 goal 46 seconds into the second increased Edmonton’s lead to 2-0.

Aleksander Barkov appeared to score on a rebound 10 seconds later to cut Florida’s deficit to 2-1, but the goal was negated by a coach’s challenge video review that showed Sam Reinhart was offside. Zach Hyman scored on a breakaway at 18:20 and the Panthers found themselves trailing 3-0 despite outshooting the Oilers 11-4 in the second period.

“They came out hungrier than us,” Panthers forward Carter Verhaeghe said. “They wanted it and that was kind of it. We didn’t really get to our forecheck off the start, and they took it to us. So, I think it’s for us to get better, and I think we need some better starts.”

Barkov scored on a great individual play 1:28 into the third period to get the Panthers within 3-1 and give them some hope, but again the deficit was too big to overcome. Empty-net goals from Ryan McLeod and Darnell Nurse sealed the Panthers’ fate that they would have to play a Game 7 in a series they appeared to have locked up after a 4-3 win in Game 3 here last Thursday.

“I think we’re fine,” Barkov, the Panthers captain, said of his team’s mental state. “Obviously, we had three match points, but Game 7, [that’s] everyone’s dream and that’s why we need to be ready for the Game 7.”

Having a chance to play Game 7 in the Cup Final was a big part of the Panthers’ postgame message, and, apparently, part of what was said in their locker room before it was opened to the media 15 minutes after the final buzzer.

“We talked as a team, we talked with the management, coaches, and everyone we need to get to ready for the Game 7,” Barkov said. “And, obviously, it starts right now with the recovery and all that kind of stuff.

“Obviously, no one’s happy to lose the game, but that’s it.”

The Panthers played all season with a poise and purpose after losing in the Cup Final last season. That carried them through the first three rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins and New York Rangers and the first three games against the Oilers.

Now, they need to figure out how to get it back in time for Game 7 on Monday.

“I think we’re a confident group,” Verhaeghe said. “They’re here for a reason, we’re here for a reason and, I mean, it’s the Stanley Cup Final. They’re a really good team and it’s for us to come back and respond next game.”

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