2024 Stanley Cup Final: Key takeaways from Panthers 4-1 Game 2 win vs. Oilers

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Edmonton Oilers at Florida Panthers
Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Panthers are now up 2-0 in the Stanley Cup Final, earning a 4-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers in Game 2. After falling behind 1-0 on Edmonton’s first shot on goal, Florida rallied back with four unanswered goals, including two from Evan Rodrigues. With his performance, he became the first player in Panthers history with a multi-goal game in the Stanley Cup Final.

The Oilers were held to just one goal after being shut out in Game 1 by Sergei Bobrovsky, who had 18 saves in Game 2. These two games mark the first time since February 2022 that the Oilers were held to one goal over two games. After dominating the playoff scoring race, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have combined for a single point thus far, with the series shifting to Rogers Place on Thursday night.

Only five teams have returned from a 2-0 series deficit in the Stanley Cup Final, meaning the Panthers’ chances of winning their first championship have improved to 91 percent.

Since there are two days between contests, there will be plenty of time to dissect all the action from Game 2, so let’s start with some takeaways.

Related: 2024 Stanley Cup Final: Winners and losers from Game 2 between Panthers and Oilers

1. Special teams play significant factor in Panthers win

The Oilers were on the verge of tying and breaking the NHL record for consecutive penalty kills in the Stanley Cup Playoffs until Rodrigues broke their streak with a third-period power-play goal. It was the first time Edmonton had given up a man-advantage goal since Game 3 of the second round against the Vancouver Canucks.

Meanwhile, the League’s most lethal power play unit, led by McDavid, Draisaitl, Zach Hyman, and Evan Bouchard, has yet to find the back of the net and is now 0-for-7 in the series. Even though they have gotten their chances and found ways to make Bobrovsky work, they have often misfired, and their cross-seam passes are getting interrupted by the sticks of the Florida defenders.

Since both clubs rely heavily on their special teams, the Panthers have won the special teams battles thus far, which is a significant reason why they have a 2-0 series lead. Despite blowing most of their power-play opportunities with untimely penalties of their own in Game 2, the Panthers been able to weather the storm on the ice and the scoreboard.

Related: Why Paul Maurice said ‘This isn’t the Oprah Winfrey Show’ after Game 2 of Final

2. Panthers, Oilers get chippy in Game 2

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Edmonton Oilers at Florida Panthers
Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

After a relatively quiet Game 1, things got heated on Monday night. There were some questionable hits, cheap shots, and clutching and grabbing. The officiating, again, was a major talking point postgame.

Whether it was an apparent headshot from Draisaitl to Aleksander Barkov, the low blow slash from Sam Carrick on Kevin Stenlund, or an Aaron Ekblad chokehold on Evan Bouchard, the boys came to play Monday. That’s not even mentioning Warren Foegel’s five-minute major and game misconduct for kneeing Eetu Luostarinen in the first period.

These opponents are no longer feeling each other out. After Game 2, there are scores to settle and receipts to cash in. Hopefully, the officials assigned to the next game can keep things under control because if things get lopsided on the scoreboard, it could be messy on the ice.

Related: 2024 Stanley Cup Final: Schedule, results, TV info for Panthers-Oilers series

3. Panthers have goaltending edge in first 2 games

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Edmonton Oilers at Florida Panthers
Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Sergei Bobrovsky became the seventh goalie since NHL Expansion in 1967 to record a shutout in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup. Through 120 minutes, he’s surrendered just one goal and posted an outstanding .980 save percentage, turning away 50 of 51 shots. Whether Bobrovsky is making saves with his face or denying pucks with his pads, he’s been the decisive factor in the series thus far, something his counterpart can’t relate to.

After leading the Oilers to their first Stanley Cup Final appearance in 18 years, Stuart Skinner gave up a goal on the first shot he faced in Game 1 and finished the evening with a .893 save percentage. In Game 2, the Panthers had a strong start and peppered Skinner with nine shots in the first period. He was bending but didn’t break until the second period before the wheels fell off in the third.

The Panthers found ways to beat Skinner, who seemed to be in position for every goal but missed shots by inches, which ended up the difference in the defeat. As one of the top candidates for the Conn Smythe Trophy, the Oilers’ netminder has now posted a .888 save percentage through two games, stopping 40 of 45 shots.

4. Injuries will be talking points ahead of Game 3

In Game 2, some notable names found themselves on the injury list. First, Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse took an awkward hit in the corner, held his side, and apparently sustained or reaggravated a hip injury. He skated just 4:20. There’s no further update on his status, but his availability for Game 3 will be a talking point for the next two days.

Meanwhile, the Panthers could be without their captain, Barkov, who absorbed a hit to the jaw from Draisaitl and didn’t skate another shift after 10:32 of the third period. Once he collected himself on the ice, he skated off and was not seen on the bench for the remainder of the game. Draisaitl was assessed a two-minute roughing penalty on the play.

Barkov was back at practice Wednesday, though.

In the first period, Foegele hit Eetu Luostarinen, which led to Foregele getting a five-minute major for kneeing and a game misconduct. This forced the Oilers to play with 11 forwards. Although Luostarinent went to the dressing room for a bit, he returned and skated 14:19, but the knee-on-thigh hit shaved almost four minutes from his average ice time.

Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad briefly went to the dressing room after betting entagled with McDavid late in the first period, but returned and played the rest of the game.

Considering it’s the Stanley Cup Final and teams are coy about injuries, there will be no significant updates in the next two days. However, possible lineup changes will be what everyone talks about between contests.

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