Florida Panthers win their first Stanley Cup, surviving Oilers' unlikely comeback attempt (2024)

Canada will have to wait at least another year before a club north of the border can hoist the Stanley Cup.

Sam Reinhart’s late second-period goal lifted the Florida Panthers to a 2-1 victory over the visiting Edmonton Oilers in Game 7 of the NHL Final on Monday, helping the home team win its first title and denying Canadian hockey fans the prized trophy’s long-awaited return north.

Reinhart’s goal came moments after Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov cleared a puck that was precariously sliding in the crease behind goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.

The desperation clearance launched a Panthers rush, culminating inReinhart’s low wrister from the circle that beat Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner, an Edmonton native.

Panthers forward Matthew Tkachuk, the son of American hockey great KeithTkachuk, recalled walking out of his house Monday afternoon with his dad and brother, Brady Tkachuk of the Ottawa Senators, wishing him well.

“All I wanted to do was to win it, not only for everybody out here, but I really wanted to win it for those two especially,”an emotional Matthew Tkachuk told ABC/ESPN.

As his players paraded with the Stanley Cup, veteran Panthers coach Paul Maurice said he was thinking about loved ones in and around Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, who supported him over the years.

“Hey Dad, your name’s going up [on the Stanley Cup] with your heroes, [Jean] Béliveau,[Maurice] Richard, [Gordie] Howe, [Ted] Lindsay, Maurice,” Maurice told Canadian broadcaster Sportsnet.

Before going to South Florida, Maurice spent parts of nine seasons behind the Winnipeg Jets bench. Even as he enjoyed the view from pro hockey’s mountaintop, Maurice shouted out his old co-workers in Manitoba.

“I’m just lucky,” he said. “If I could have one thing more, it’d be for the Winnipeg Jets to win the next Stanley Cup.”

How the Stanley Cup was won

  • Since the Montreal Canadiens won it all in 1993, the Stanley Cup has been won four times by Florida teams: The Panthers on Monday and the Tampa Bay Lightning three times (2004, 2020, 2021).
  • Florida's win put a bow on the coaching legacy of Panthers boss Paul Maurice, whose career behind the bench began in 1995-96 with the Hartford Whalers.
  • Oilers star Connor McDavid won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the outstanding player throughout the playoffs.
  • Florida goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky shook off three straight losses to stop 21 of 22 shots Monday. He stood tall against a barrage of Oilers shots late in the third.
  • Matthew Tkachuk hoisted the Stanley Cup a week after his Chaminade College Preparatory School classmate Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics won the NBA title.

Edmonton had been seeking to become only the fifth team in NHL history to rally from a 3-0 series deficit when it took the ice at Amerant Bank Arena in Sunrise, Florida.

Just 1½ weeks ago, the Panthers appeared invincible after their 4-3 victory at Edmonton in Game 3, giving them a 3-0 series lead.

The high-powered Oilers, who scored the fourth most goals in hockey this regular season, had put only four pucks past Bobrovsky in the first three games.

But the first three contests looked nothing like Games 4, 5 and 6 as Edmonton ran roughshod over Florida, scoring 18 to force Monday night’s decisive game.

Four teams had rallied from 3-0 holes to win best-of-7 playoff series in NHL history: the Toronto Maple Leafs (1942), the New York Islanders (1975), the Philadelphia Flyers (2010) and the Los Angeles Kings (2014). The Leafs’ feat came in the Stanley Cup Final.

But as the Panthers showed Monday, any momentum gained from wins in Games 4-6 often ends when the puck drops in Game 7. While four teams have come back from 3-0 deficits, five other 0-3 squads hadforced seventh games, only to lose the winner-take-all contests.

Edmonton is the sixth team to make such a valiant effort that fell just short.

The Detroit Red Wings (2011, 1945), the Chicago Blackhawks (2011), the Islanders (1975) and the New York Rangers (1939) all gallantly fought back before dropping seventh games. The 1975 Islanders pulled the 3-0 miracle in a quarterfinal series against the Pittsburgh Penguins and nearly pulled off the same feat in the semifinals against the Philadelphia Flyers before they fell in Game 7.

The Panthers’ win also kept alive a three-decade-long string of Canadian teams’ failing to win the Stanley Cup, a feat last accomplished in 1993, when the Montreal Canadiens won it all.

A Canadian team has made the Stanley Cup final seven times since the 1993 Habs, only to fall short against U.S.-based clubs.

Before it hoisted the cup Monday, Florida came close to lifting Lord Stanley’s famed chalice last year, when the Vegas Golden Knights won it all, and in 1996, when the Panthers fell to the Colorado Avalanche.

Reinhart, a native of British Columbia and son of former NHL defenseman Paul Reinhart, effusively praised the Oilers and said he didn't mind having to endure the near-humiliation of blowing a 3-0 lead.

"The level of talent they have on that team, to be up 3-0, they made it rough on us," he told the NHL Network. "That’s the way it was always going to be."

David K. Li

David K. Li is a senior breaking news reporter for NBC News Digital.

Florida Panthers win their first Stanley Cup, surviving Oilers' unlikely comeback attempt (2024)
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