EDMONTON -- Perspective.

The Florida Panthers have no choice now but to find it, to have it, to harness it despite being in a window of time when the Edmonton Oilers otherwise might have them thinking delusionally about where they are in this Stanley Cup Final.

"I'd cut your arm off for this opportunity," Florida coach Paul Maurice said Thursday.

The Panthers, and only the Panthers, can win the Stanley Cup on Friday when they play Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Oilers at Rogers Place (8 p.m. ET; CBC, TVAS, SN, ESPN+, ABC).

They lead the best-of-7 series 3-2. That is not lost on them.

"I think [at] the beginning of the series this is definitely a place we would want to be," forward Matthew Tkachuk said.

That's the Panthers’ perspective, an understanding of time and place and situation and reality.

But this place, Edmonton, and this time, preparing for Game 6, and this situation, having to play Game 6, and this reality is not at all where the Panthers wanted to be or what they wanted to be experiencing a few days ago.

No, a few days ago they wanted to be on the beach with the Stanley Cup, parading down A1A, celebrating at the famous beachfront watering hole, Elbo Room. They wanted to be partying. They wanted to be champions.

Breaking down the Conn Smythe odds

They had the chance to earn all of that Saturday, the last time they were here in Edmonton, when they had to be here because the series has to go at least four games. They were up 3-0. They could have been the first team since the 1998 Detroit Red Wings to sweep the Final.

The Oilers won 8-1 in Game 4. The score was indicative of how the game was played.


Not catastrophic, though, because the Panthers again had the opportunity to earn their summerlong party and fulfill childhood dreams because they had Game 5 at home in Sunrise, Florida, on Tuesday.

Flight plans to Edmonton were a distant thought.

The Oilers won that game too, 5-3.

Reality set in.

Back to Edmonton.


"Obviously, being up three games to zero [we] wouldn't have wanted it to go to this point, but at the end of the day we knew they were going to have a push," Tkachuk said. "They're an unbelievable team. They've had a great playoffs, great season. We knew this wasn't going to be a four-game series, let's all be honest here."

Previewing Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final

Again, that's the Panthers’ perspective, and it’s legitimate. Nobody thought this would be a sweep until the possibility existed after three games. Most predicted a six- or seven-game series.

Nobody predicted it would get to Game 6 the way it did, but it's here, the Panthers having blown two of the four opportunities they earned to win the Cup.

"We're learning how to do this," Maurice said. "We're learning how to feel it."

After Florida's morning skate in advance of Game 4, Maurice talked about two sets of energy sources that would be obvious in the game that night.

"One is desperation and the other is desire," he said.

The Oilers, down 3-0, had the desperation to keep their season alive, the goal of winning the Stanley Cup so far in the distance that it couldn't even be a thought.

The Panthers, up 3-0, had the desire to win the Stanley Cup, the goal being right in front of their faces. Maurice even said the goal of winning the Stanley Cup feels like it comes before the game itself because it's so close you can taste it.

At no other point in the season does the ultimate goal come before the game you have to play. That's especially true when you're facing a team that is already being counted out, as the Oilers were after three games in this series.

"When you have nothing to lose there's a freedom to that, right?" Maurice said. "There's also a danger to that, right? There's a great line in one of those cheesy movies, the most dangerous man in the world is the guy whose got nothing to lose, that idea. Then when you have something to protect sometimes you feel the pressure to protect it."

The Panthers still feel that. But Maurice wants you to think that maybe the Oilers do too now.

"There's an evening out in this series now," he said. "I think the pressure is closer. We'll take all of it. Feel free. But the stake is there now for both teams where it was just there for us [before]. The goal is closer for them and now that part evens out."

That might be a narrative-driving perspective on Maurice's part, a coach trying to change the storyline because his team has lost two games in a row.

But it can be taken in a different context. Maybe that, too, is part of the Panthers' perspective of where they are in this series.

"We're very comfortable in this position," Tkachuk said. "We were in this position a couple series ago in Boston. We played the [New York] Rangers and had a very similar position going there for a Game 5. So, we're very comfortable right now. We're excited. We know it's going to be a great environment tomorrow and hopefully our last game of the season."

If it is, they'll have won the Stanley Cup.

If it's not, there is always Game 7 back home Monday.

"I mean, we're here to win a Cup," Panthers forward Kevin Stenlund said. "If we do it in five, six, seven, it doesn't really matter. We're here to win one game, just focus on that."