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Stupendous Bobrovsky backstops opportunistic Panthers to 3-0 Game 1 win over Oilers

Jun 8, 2024; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) shoots the puck against Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (72) during the first period in game one of the 2024 Stanley Cup Final at Amerant Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

Sergei Bobrovsky made an early goal from Carter Verhaeghe stand up with a dazzling 32-save performance that included stops on 13 high danger chances, three of them breakaways, as the Florida Panthers fended off a difficult challenge from the Edmonton Oilers, posting a 3-0 win in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final at Amerant Bank Arena.

A busy Bobrovsky made 25 saves over the first forty minutes until the Panthers were able to get to their defensive game in the third, limiting the dangerous Oilers to just seven shots.

The Panthers opened the scoring on their first shot on goal at the 3:59 mark after Aaron Ekblad sent the first line away on a 3-on-2 rush. Aleksander Barkov carried up ice before sending Sam Reinhart over the blue line. Reinhart returned to Barkov, who saucered a cross to Verhaeghe, who scooped the puck just inside the far post for his tenth of the playoffs.

After the Oilers dominated the second half of the opening frame, but couldn’t cash in on penalties on Gustav Forsling and Verhaeghe, and breakaways chances for Adam Henrique and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, a great individual effort by Sam Bennett doubled Florida’s lead early in the second period.

Bennett took a pass from Brandon Montour and once he hit the Edmonton blue line chipped the puck in deep. He took off and beat Cody Ceci to puck and then centered into the slot where an open Evan Rodrigues snapped a shot past Stuart Skinner to make it 2-0 at 2:16. The secondary helper made Montour the only Panthers defenseman to ever hit double-digit points in multiple postseasons. 

Bobrovsky frustrated the Oilers the rest night, making highlight reel save after save, including this strong effort to blunt a Connor McDavid one-timer, off a crisp crossing pass from Leon Draisaitl, 4:32 into the final frame.

Eventually the Oilers pulled Skinner, but the Panthers did a fine job defensively, holding them to a single shot on goal during the 6-on-5 situation.

Barkov was able to pass to Eetu Luostarinen, after the latter blocked a shot, to clear the zone and the lanky forward was able to whip the puck into the net from center ice to complete the scoring with five seconds remaining to send rats raining down from a great height. That’s points in three-straight games for Luostarinen, who missed last year’s final round against Vegas.

A Herculean effort from Bobrovsky, three huge penalty kills and just enough from an offense that was held to 18 shots and the Panthers lead a Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history. They’ll need to play better on Monday if they want to extend that lead. Edmonton’s speed and creativity resulted in plenty of high-quality chances that they just couldn’t quite finish off. After being “the better team” for most of the playoffs, the Panthers weren’t that in Game 1. They did however, get the most important thing right, they found a way to win. One down, three to go.

Stanley stuff

  • After coming a whisker away from blanking the New York Rangers to close out the Eastern Conference Final, Sergei Bobrovsky posted his second shutout of the postseason. He is the oldest goalie in NHL history to record a shutout in Game 1 of a Stanley Cup Final.
  • Carter Verhaghe joined Zach Hyman, Wyatt Johnston and Leon Draisaitl as the only double-digit goalscorers in the playoffs. It was the 10th game-winning goal of his postseason career and also gave him a career-high 18 points.
  • In addition to creating Florida’s second goal of the night, Sam Bennett finished with a game-high 11 hits and registered two shots on goal.
  • The finisher on that goal, Evan Rodrigues ended a nine-game scoring drought. Rodrigues, whose been doing yeoman’s work, hadn’t lit the lamp since his brace against the Boston Bruins on May 10.
  • Connor McDavid was held without a point for the first time in five games. McDavid finished with a team-high six shots and played 25:17, the most of any forward on either club.
  • Aleskander Barkov’s two primary assists pushed him into a tie with Matthew Tkachuk as Florida’s scoring leader. Both players have 19 points. A gritty performance from Barkov, who was credited with two shots, four blocks and three hits and w