2024 Stanley Cup Final: Key takeaways from Panthers 4-3 Game 3 win vs. Oilers

Stanley Cup
Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Panthers are one win away from their first Stanley Cup title thanks to a 4-3 victory over the Edmonton Oilers in Game 3 of the 2024 Stanley Cup Final. After winning just one game in their past two appearances in the Final in 1996 and 2023, the Panthers are on the cusp of a championship by grabbing a stranglehold in this series.

Only one team in NHL history, the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, has ever rallied from a 3-0 Final deficit. This means the odds are not in the Oilers’ favor, but anything is possible, as they did win 16 games in a row earlier in the season.

However, superstars like Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Zach Hyman need to get the offense going to win the first game. Meanwhile, Stuart Skinner needs to make some key saves. This series will return to Florida next week if they get some favorable bounces in Game 4.

Here are four takeaways from the Panthers’ Game 3 win at Rogers Place on Thursday night.

Related: NHL games today: Watch time and TV info for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final

Stuart Skinner’s miscue halts Oilers’ Stanley Cup momentum

Florida’s Sam Reinhart opened the scoring late in the first period (18:58), beating Skinner on a tip shot while the teams were playing four-on-four. On fresh ice in the second period, the Oilers responded almost immediately, with a game-tying goal at 1:49 when Warren Foegele beat Sergei Bobrovsky with a perfectly placed shot under the glove, over the pad.

However, at 9:12 of the middle frame, Vladimir Tarasenko restored the Panthers’ lead when Skinner misplayed a dump-in behind the net that ended up in the slot where the Russian forward was alone and buried his fourth goal of the playoffs. Sam Bennett gave Florida a 3-1 lead four minutes later, and Aleksander Barkov extended it to 4-1 at 15:31.

After Tarasenko’s goal, Rogers Place was so quiet that you could hear every tape-to-tape pass and every body check. Only after Philip Broberg’s goal at 6:02 of the third period did the fans come back to life, spending over 10 minutes of game action wondering what happened in the second period.

Even though the Oilers had their chances, momentum was not on their side. The deficit on the scoreboard affected their play, which resulted from Skinner’s miscue behind the net.

Related: Edmonton Oilers add intrigue to Stanley Cup Final by not touching Clarence Campbell Bowl

Panthers’ style of play is suffocating

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Florida Panthers at Edmonton Oilers
Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

Anyone who didn’t watch Game 3 will look at the scoresheet and see that the Oilers outshot the Panthers 35-23, thus believing that Edmonton dominated the game. Without watching highlights, that assumption is only half right.

Yes, the Oilers had their chances, forcing Bobrovsky to work. However, the game could have been even more lopsided if Edmonton’s best players, like McDavid and Evan Bouchard, had room on the ice to create magic.

In the third period, protecting a three-goal and two-goal lead, ESPN analyst Ray Ferrero pointed out that someone in a white jersey descends upon them whenever the Oilers gain possession of the puck. If they break loose, there is another white jersey, and the Panthers attack comes in “waves.”

In the final period, Florida was playing its game and would not waiver from it, whether protecting the lead or trying for another goal. The Panthers were relentless on the forecheck, and whenever Edmonton got into the zone, sticks and bodies clogged up the lanes, suppressing any golden opportunities.

Related: Panthers change NHL playoff strategy, refuse to touch Prince of Wales Trophy

Dry offense leads to Oilers’ 3-0 series deficit

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Florida Panthers at Edmonton Oilers
Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

McDavid had 31 points in 18 playoff games, with Draisaitl at 28, Bouchard at 27, and Zach Hyman with 14 goals. Thus far in the Stanley Cup Final, these four players have combined for three assists, with two from McDavid and one from Bouchard.

Edmonton entered the Final with a power play, clicking at over 33%, but is now 0-for-10 after going goalless for the third consecutive game on three man-advantage opportunities. Unfortunately, Edmonton’s depth has all four goals in the series, while the superstars that found so much success in the early rounds are looking to the sky for answers after every save or deflected shot.

Ultimately, Florida head coach Paul Maurice has orchestrated a plan that so many NHL teams have failed to execute: neutralize the game’s best player by honing in on him when he’s got the puck while preventing Draisaitl from scoring from the goal line, Hyman from tapping in goals in the crease, and Bouchard from firing bombs from the point.

If the Oilers have any chance at winning a game or coming back in the series, they need these guys to find the form that got them to the Stanley Cup Final in the first place.

Related: Panthers latest in salary cap era with consecutive Stanley Cup Final appearances

Bobrovsky is now Conn Smythe favorite

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Florida Panthers at Edmonton Oilers
Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

Ahead of the Stanley Cup Final, McDavid, followed by Draisaitl and Bouchard, had the best odds of winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. Although they are one performance away from rejoining the conversation, the clear winner after these past three games is Bobrovsky, who is 3-0 with four goals against and a .953 SV%.

The Russian netminder has won his last six games with a 1.50 GAA and .944 SV%, including a shutout in 361:12 of ice time. In Game 3, it was the first time Bobrovsky had given up three goals during the win streak and only the fifth time this playoffs that an opponent has lit the lamp that many times.

Just like last season, when he carried the Panthers to the Final, he’s outperformed himself in 2024. If he wins the next game, there’s a good chance Commissioner Gary Bettman will hand him the Conn Smythe Trophy as the best player in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

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