Panthers celebrate at buzzer 62424

The Florida Panthers won the Stanley Cup for the first time in their history with a 2-1 win against the Edmonton Oilers in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final at Amerant Bank Arena on Monday.

Florida was 16-8 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs after going 52-24-6 to finish first in the Atlantic Division. They defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games in the first round, the Boston Bruins in six games in the second round and the Presidents' Trophy-winning New York Rangers in six games in the Eastern Conference Final.

The Panthers, who lost to the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2023 Cup Final, became the first team since the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009 to win the Cup the season after losing in the final. They followed a different path to the Final this season after they were 42-32-8 last season and didn't clinch the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs until the final week of the regular season. In the playoffs, they upset the Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes before losing to the Golden Knights.

The Panthers raced to a 3-0 lead in the Cup Final before losing the next three games, but recovered in Game 7.

Unlike last season, when they overcame a 3-1 series deficit against the Bruins in the first round, the Panthers only played in one game this postseason when facing elimination; Game 7 of the Final.

Here are some of the highlights for the Panthers on the road to the Stanley Cup:

BEST MOMENT: For the first time in their history, the Panthers won the Stanley Cup with a 2-1 in in Game 7 against the Oilers. Carter Verhaeghe and Sam Reinhart scored for the Panthers, and Sergei Bobrovsky made 23 saves. Captain Aleksander Barkov became the first Finland-born captain to lift the Stanley Cup.

Aleksander Barkov lifts the Stanley Cup after Game 7 win

TURNING POINT: After the Rangers won Games 2 and 3 in overtime to take a 2-1 lead in the conference final, the teams went to overtime again in Game 4. Staring down a potential 3-1 series deficit, Florida pulled out a 3-2 victory on Reinhart's power-play goal at 1:12. Barkov drew a hooking penalty on Blake Wheeler at 59 seconds, and the Panthers needed only 13 seconds to convert with a pinpoint passing play that ended with Barkov setting up Reinhart for a one-timer from the slot that went in over Igor Shesterkin's catching glove. Instead of facing elimination in Game 5 in New York, Florida was tied 2-2 in the series and won the next two games to advance.

BEST MOVES MADE: Injuries stretched the Panthers' depth past its limit in the Cup Final last season, so general manager Bill Zito did his best to make sure that didn't happen again, at least partly out of necessity. With defensemen Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour each slated to miss the start of the season while recovering from shoulder surgery and Radko Gudas departing for the Anaheim Ducks as an unrestricted free agent, the Panthers bolstered their defense July 1 by signing Niko Mikkola to a three-year contract and Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Dmitry Kulikov to one-year contracts. Florida also strengthened its forward depth by signing Evan Rodrigues to a four-year contract July 2, which helped when forward Sam Bennett missed 12 of the first 13 games with two lower-body injuries. By the time Ekblad and Montour made their season debut against the Ducks on Nov. 17 -- two games after Bennett returned -- the Panthers were 10-5-1 and well positioned to contend for first in the Atlantic.

BEST MOVES NOT MADE: This was a no-brainer, but the Panthers held onto Reinhart and Montour through the 2024 NHL Trade Deadline even though they might not be able to re-sign either after this season. Reinhart and Montour are among 11 Panthers players who skated in the playoffs eligible to become unrestricted free agents July 1.

EDM@FLA SCF, Gm7: Kulikov makes great play, then Reinhart scores

SIGNATURE WIN (REGULAR SEASON): Sometimes teams can overlook the final game before the NHL holiday break, but there was no chance the Panthers would do that when they hosted the Golden Knights on Dec. 23 for a rematch of the 2023 Final. Florida rebounded from losing four of its previous five games with a 4-2 statement win. Verhaeghe broke a 2-2 tie with a power-play goal at 6:10 of the third period, and Reinhart scored on the power play at 8:09 to complete a victory that began a season-long nine-game winning streak.

SIGNATURE WIN (PLAYOFFS): The Panthers' experience in tight playoff games paid off in their 3-2 victory against the Rangers in Game 5. Playing in a hostile visiting environment at Madison Square Garden, Florida was unfazed when New York took a 1-0 lead on Chris Kreider's short-handed goal 2:04 into the second period. After Gustav Forsling tied it on a backhand at 8:21 of the second, it appeared the teams might be headed to overtime for the fourth straight game before Anton Lundell scored from the left circle at 10:22 of the third to give the Panthers a 2-1 lead. Bennett's empty-net goal with 1:52 remaining made it 3-1 before Alexis Lafrenière scored 6-on-5 for the Rangers to make it a 3-2 final. Florida is 17-5 in one-goal games the past two postseasons for an NHL-best .773 winning percentage in such situations.

FLA@NYR ECF, Gm5: Lundell uses wicked wrister to make it 2-1

MVP: Although Forsling has been outstanding, Matthew Tkachuk tied for the Panthers lead with 22 playoff points (six goals, 16 assists) and Verhaeghe had a team-high 10 goals, the pick here is Barkov. The Panthers captain did it all with 22 points (eight goals, 14 assists) in 24 games playing all situations, often being matched against an opponent's top lines. Barkov's clutch play is not only defined by his team-leading three game-winning goals but also his defensive brilliance. The best example of this was his block on David Pastrnak's one-timer to prevent a potential tying goal late in Florida's series-clinching 2-1 victory against Boston in Game 6 of the second round. The following day, Barkov was announced as the winner of the Selke Trophy voted as the top defensive forward in the NHL for the second time in his career.

BIGGEST SURPRISE: Forsling finishing fourth in the playoffs among defensemen with 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in 24 games despite limited time on the power play shouldn't be a surprise because he led Panthers defensemen with 39 points (10 goals, 29 assists) during the regular season in the same role. Still, Forsling is known more for his sterling defensive play, which makes it stand out a little more when he also makes timely offensive contributions, including his winning goal at 18:27 of the third period in Game 6 against Boston and tying goals in Games 3 and 5 against New York.

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