SCF, Gm7: Oilers @ Panthers Recap

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Crisis averted. The Florida Panthers are Stanley Cup champions.

"So special," Panthers forward Matthew Tkachuk said. "I don't think we realize what we've just accomplished just yet. Every time I look at that trophy it'll get better and better."

Carter Verhaeghe had a goal and an assist, Sam Reinhart scored, and Sergei Bobrovsky made 23 saves for the Panthers, who defeated the Edmonton Oilers 2-1 in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final at Amerant Bank Arena on Monday.

The Panthers, who joined the NHL for the 1993-94 season, won their first Stanley Cup championship in their fourth chance to get it in this series. They lost the previous three games after taking a 3-0 lead and were in jeopardy of becoming the first team since 1942 to lose four straight potential clinching games in the Stanley Cup Final.

"To become a true champion you have to overcome adversity, and that was the moment you have to get together and get the job done," Bobrovsky said. "We weren't afraid to make a mistake. We played with freedom. We attacked."

Florida coach Paul Maurice finally won a Stanley Cup championship after coaching the most games in NHL history before his first title with 1,985 (1,848 in the regular season, 137 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs). He also improved to 5-0 in Game 7 for his NHL career.

The Florida Panthers win the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history

Mattias Janmark scored, and Stuart Skinner made 19 saves for the Oilers. Connor McDavid, who led the NHL with 42 points (eight goals, 34 assists) in the playoffs, was held off the score sheet. So was Leon Draisaitl, who was limited to no goals and three assists in the Final.

McDavid still won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs. He is the sixth player to win it while playing for the losing team and the first since goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere for the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2003. Anaheim lost the Cup Final to the New Jersey Devils in seven games.

"It goes back the character of the group that we showed all year long," said McDavid, the Edmonton captain. "We showed all year long that we could fight back even in the most dire situations. It's obviously tough to be down three and it's tough to win four in a row against a team like that, but we were right there."

It was the first time since 1945 that a Stanley Cup Final went the distance after a team took a 3-0 lead. That season, the Detroit Red Wings won Games 4, 5 and 6 to tie the Final before losing 2-1 to the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 7.

Edmonton was trying to become the first team since the 1941-42 Maple Leafs to pull off the reverse sweep, winning Games 4-7 after losing Games 1-3. It was also trying to become the first Canada-based team to win the Stanley Cup since the Montreal Canadiens in 1993.

But the Panthers responded after being outscored 18-5 in Games 4-6 to stop the Oilers from making history in Game 7.

"It's tough to put into words right now," Draisaitl said. "You’re one period, one shot away from maybe winning the thing and now you have to go through 82 regular-season games and play well enough to get another kick at it. It's hard right now."

EDM@FLA SCF, Gm7: Janmark evens the game at 1 with breakaway goal

Bobrovsky, who allowed 12 goals on 58 shots in the three previous games (5.06 goals-against average, .793 save percentage), made five saves in the first period, nine in the second and nine more in the third.

He said getting away from the rink Sunday and not skating in the Panthers' practice allowed him to reset and refocus for Game 7. 

"I was trying to cut off everything outside of myself, to just settle down, relax and focus on one shot at a time," Bobrovsky said. "I think it was a great moment that I didn't skate yesterday. The goalie coach came up with the idea to just have a rest, go away. I went home and played with my daughter. She's my motivation. She's my inspiration. Just relax, reset, come this morning for the morning skate ready to go."

The Panthers scored the first goal for the first time since Game 3. 

They never trailed. 

"They played with freedom and that's what I'm going to remember from this game," Maurice said. "The story gets written differently if we don't win, but under the most pressure they found the courage to play with some freedom, to make plays, to move the puck.

"They get to say, 'In Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, I was at my best.'"

EDM@FLA SCF, Gm7: Verhaeghe's incredible redirection goal opens the scoring

Verhaeghe gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead at 4:27 of the first period, six seconds after their first power play of the game expired. 

He played the puck from behind the net to Evan Rodrigues along the left wall, and Rodrigues whipped a shot from there to the net. It looked like it was going wide right, but Verhaeghe got his stick on it in front, deflecting it down and through Skinner's legs.

It was Verhaeghe's first goal since Game 1 and the first time the Panthers led since Game 3.

"The last couple games they scored so many goals off the hop, and to play with the lead, it felt good," Verhaeghe said.

The Oilers got the goal back quickly with Janmark scoring on a breakaway to make it 1-1 at 6:44.

"I thought they were the better team in the first period," Edmonton coach Kris Knoblauch said. "I thought they came out with a little more urgency and won a lot of puck races. I thought we defended well. I thought in the second and the third period, I thought we found our game, I thought we played well, but couldn't capitalize on our opportunities." 

Instead, it was Reinhart giving Florida a 2-1 lead at 15:11 of the second period, scoring with a low, short-side shot from inside the right face-off circle.

Florida defenseman Dmitry Kulikov cleared the puck away from the Panthers crease before he fell into the net. The puck went to Verhaeghe, who moved it up to Reinhart. 

Reinhart was looking for a pass as he went through the neutral zone and across the blue line, but eventually chose to shoot, and the puck squeezed through Skinner to give Florida its second lead of the game.

"You're hoping that's it, right?" Reinhart said. "I mean, there was a lot of work to do, a lot of game left, but absolutely I'm hoping that's the one."

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

Bobrovsky said from there he treated the rest of the game like it was overtime.

"I wasn't happy when they scored [on] a breakaway because we had a good lead," he said, "but Sam scores the second goal and I was thinking it's better to not let that go."

McDavid and Zach Hyman each had a look at what was an open net for the Oilers with just over seven minutes left in the third period, but neither could get enough of the puck. 

Sam Bennett and Brandon Montour dove into the crease to help Bobrovsky keep the puck out of the net on Hyman's attempt, preserving Florida's lead at 12:56.

Skinner went to the bench for the extra skater with 1:10 left, but the Oilers couldn't get another shot attempt.

"We really believed we were going to get one," McDavid said. "I have that one in front, Zach has a whack at it, 'Bouch' (Evan Bouchard) has got all kinds of looks. We had a lot of looks, it just didn’t go." 

The Panthers froze the puck in the corner for the last six seconds to win the Stanley Cup.

"The last three games before you're hoping," Reinhart said. "You're hoping you're in it and you have a chance at the end. That's a dangerous spot to be in against a team like that and it showed. That hope went away tonight, and we were able to find our game. It showed."

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