Florida Panthers outlast Edmonton Oilers in Game 7 for first Stanley Cup title

ByGreg Wyshynski ESPN logo
Tuesday, June 25, 2024

FLORIDA -- The Florida Panthers captured their first Stanley Cup in franchise history with a 2-1 Game 7 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Monday night, in a thrilling conclusion to a classic playoff series.

Winger Sam Reinhart's second-period goal proved to be the game-winner, as goalie Sergei Bobrovsky made 23 saves to close out the series -- and help his team avoid postseason infamy.

The Panthers' win averted one of the most epic collapses in sports history. Florida had built a 3-0 series lead, but the Oilers roared back with three straight wins, just the third time in NHL history that a team forced a Game 7 after losing the first three games of a Stanley Cup Final.

But the legacy of the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs remains intact -- they're still the only team to rally from a 3-0 deficit in the Final to win the Cup, after the Oilers came up short.

Instead, Florida became just the third team in the past 40 years to win the Stanley Cup after losing in the Final in the previous postseason, as the Panthers fell in five games to the Vegas Golden Knights in 2023.

The Oilers were making their first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 2006.

This was the furthest superstars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl had carried their team in the postseason. Neither player had a point in Game 7, with McDavid going scoreless in the last two games of the series. He finished as the playoffs' leading scorer with 42 points.

The energy in the building for Game 7 could be felt well before puck drop. A significant number of Oilers fans purchased tickets for the game, cheering Edmonton players during warmups and loudly singing "O Canada" over guest anthem singer Alanis Morissette. Panthers fans belted their own lively rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" in response.

The Panthers opened the scoring moments after an early power play ended, following a high-sticking call on Edmonton's Warren Foegele. Florida winger Evan Rodrigues flung the puck towards the Edmonton net where he found Carter Verhaeghe alone in front, tipping it home for his 11th goal of the playoffs at 4:27 to send the home crowd into a frenzy.

Teams that scored first in Game 7 of a Stanley Cup Final owned an all-time record of 12-5, including eight straight wins dating back to 1994.

But Mattias Janmark gave the Oilers fans in Sunrise a reason to cheer just 2:17 later, taking a rink-length outlet pass from defenseman Cody Ceci and converting a breakaway goal for his 4th of the playoffs, knotting the game at 1-1.

The Panthers took the lead in the second period in a "hockey is a game of inches" sequence. Foegele shot the puck with a crowd in front of Bobrovsky. The puck deflected over the goaltender's arm and fell to the ice next to him, where defenseman Dmitry Kulikov cleared it to the corner while falling down.

Kulikov's play ended up as the secondary assist on winger Sam Reinhart's go-ahead goal at 15:11, a wrist shot through a screen that beat goalie Stuart Skinner. It was Reinhart's 10th goal of the playoffs and first since Game 3.

Florida took a lead into the third period for the 10th time, having gone 9-0 in that situation during the postseason. Over the last two postseasons, they were 18-0 when leading after two. In Stanley Cup Final history, teams were 13-1 when leading after two periods in a Game 7. The lone team to rally? The 1942 Maple Leafs, who won the Cup after trailing the Detroit Red Wings, 1-0.

The Oilers pushed in the third period but couldn't find the equalizer, despite some chaotic moments in front of Bobrovsky.

Plastic rats, gloves and sticks littered the ice as the Panthers celebrated.

McDavid said it was "Cup or bust" after last season. It took until the last possible game of the season for his championship push to end and his nation's Stanley Cup drought to continue. No Canadian team has won the Cup since the Montreal Canadiens in 1993.