Oilers 3 critical mistakes in Game 3 of Stanley Cup Final vs. Panthers

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

The Edmonton Oilers beat themselves Thursday night.

They dropped Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final to the Florida Panthers by a score of 4-3, and now find themselves facing nearly impossible odds with a 3-0 series deficit.

Despite scoring two goals in the third period, their first multi-goal period in the Cup Final, the Oilers couldn’t dig out out of a 4-1 hole. So, they face an even deeper hole now.

Only once has a team come back from down 3-0 in the Stanley Cup Final. That would be the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1942.

That was during the World War II. Yikes.

There are a few reasons why the Oilers find themselves in this sticky situation.

One is Sergei Bobrovsky, who has been nothing short of phenomenal this postseason. The Panthers goalie seals the bottom half of the net with ease and has made stunning acrobatic saves.

Another is the offense. While Connor McDavid has assisted on three of Edmonton’s four goals this series, the other members of their prolific offense have gone silent.

Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Zach Hyman have yet to hit the score sheet against the Panthers.

Then there’s the power play, which was once the calling card for the Oilers offense earlier in these playoffs. They are 0-for-10 this series. and were 0-for-3 in Game 3.

But the most glaring issue for this Oilers team has been the defense. 

They made three unforgivable errors below the goal line on Thursday night, each mistake gifting Florida a goal.

Related: 2024 Stanley Cup Final: Winners and losers from Game 3

Oilers first mistake: Evan Bouchard gets beat … again.

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

It’s been a never ending nightmare in the Stanley Cup Final for Evan Bouchard, who became a fan favorite this year for his “Bouchard blast” slap shots and impressive offensive numbers.

But Bouchard’s been lost on the defensive side of the puck in the Stanley Cup Final

The 24-year-old defenseman has beenn beat multiple times on the boards by quicker forwards, and lost the puck at critical moments.

Watch him get pick-pocketed (and then beat in his own zone) by Aleksander Barkov to allow the Panthers to score the first goal Thursday.

It’s not a one-off.

He made an equally costly error on Monday night in Florida, that time delivering a pass directly to Panthers forward Evan Rodrigues in the Oilers’ zone while knotted 1-1 with 16:49 remaining in the third period.

He panics on a simple clear, not realizing the two Panthers standing in the way of his intended passing target Connor Brown. 

You can see Stuart Skinner’s frustration with Bouchard as he throws his arm up in the air after the goal. 

Take a look:

It’s disappointing for the Oilers, who witnessed a career season from Bouchard, in which he totaled an impressive 82 points and was a solid plus-34.

Oilers second mistake: Stuart Skinner’s slip-up

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

It’s a goalie’s worst nightmare, and it happens to all of them.

But did it have to happen to Stuart Skinner now?

Halfway through the second period, Skinner attempted to intercept a dump in from Panthers center Anton Lundell, but it leaks by his stick as he fails to stop it’s full momentum.

Waiting just outside the trapezoid is Eetu Luostarinen, who dishes the puck to a wide open Vladimir Tarasenko who beats Skinner scrambling back o make it 2-1.

Part of the blame could certainly be assessed to Oilers defenseman Cody Ceci who, despite having the superior angle and positioning to Luostarinen, lost the puck battle beneath the goal line.

However, any time the goaltender is behind the net to concede a goal, it’s not a good look.

Skinner had been very solid since he was passed over for backup goalie Calvin Pickard in the fourth and fifth game of the Western Conference Second Round against the Vancouver Canucks.

He never allowed more than three goals in a game during the Western Conference Final against the Dallas Stars, and was beginning to look like he found his playoff groove.

That was until he ran into the Panthers. 

In the Stanley Cup Final, Skinner’s allowed 9 goals on 68 attempts, which earns him an undesirable .868 save percentage and three goals allowed per game.

The Oilers defense has done him no favors, but that unfortunate situation behind the net will be one that follows him around for a while, considering that it was a tie game at the time.

Oilers third mistake: Darnell Nurse nightmare

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

Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse has had a rough go of it this postseason.

He’s been on the ice for a lot of goals.

Nurse’s plus/minus is a stinging minus-16, tied for the worst in postseason history with Paul Reinhart’s 1983 campaign with the Calgary Flames.

And yes, that’s the father of Panthers first line wing Sam Reinhart.

This series alone hasn’t been easy for Nurse. 

He took a hard (but clean) hit from Rodrigues in Game 2 which injured his hip, limiting Nurse to just five minutes of ice time and left him absent from the next day’s practice.

Nurse returned to the ice on Thursday night for Game 3 and looked unsteady.

Though he was able to nab a secondary assist on Philip Broberg’s goal to cut the lead to 4-2 early in the third period, it wasn’t enough to rectify this mistake in the latter half of the second:

Nurse receives a pass along the boards from Broberg, and then comes under pressure as he tries to skate to initiate the breakout.

He quickly realizes he’s under the pressure of both Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett and instantly coughs the puck up to Tkachuk.

The Panthers forward waits patiently, finds Bennett open at the back post, and it’s quickly 3-1. 

The errors below the goal line are unending for the Oilers.

Unless the Oilers can clean things up quickly, they could be watching the Panthers hoisting the Stanley Cup inside Rogers Place on Saturday.

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