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Panthers hold on to beat Oilers 4-3 and take 3-0 lead in Stanley Cup Final

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Connor McDavid's dream of hoisting a Stanley Cup this spring is turning into a nightmare.

Sergei Bobrovsky made 32 saves as the Florida Panthers held on to defeat the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 on Thursday and take a 3-0 chokehold in the best-of-seven title series.

Aleksander Barkov and Sam Reinhart, with a goal and an assist each, Vladimir Tarasenko and Sam Bennett scored for Florida, which has smothered McDavid and the Oilers' attack through nine periods.

And whenever the Oilers have had a look — except for brief surges like Thursday's third period after trailing 4-1 — Bobrovsky has been close to perfect.

Warren Foegele, Philip Broberg and Ryan McLeod replied for Edmonton. Stuart Skinner stopped 19 shots. McDavid had two assists.

The Panthers can clinch their first Cup on Saturday back at Rogers Place. Game 5, if necessary, would be Tuesday at Amerant Bank Arena.

Florida, which lost to the Vegas Golden Knights last spring, is looking to become just the third team in the NHL's post-1967 expansion era to hoist hockey's holy grail after losing the final the previous year, joining the Oilers (1984) and the Pittsburgh Penguins (2009).

The Oilers, meanwhile, will hope to avoid becoming the first team swept in the championship round since the 1998 Washington Capitals.

Barkov suited up after taking a forearm to the jaw from Oilers centre Leon Draisaitl in the third period of Florida's 4-1 victory Monday. Edmonton was without winger Evander Kane (sports hernia), but defenceman Darnell Nurse (suspected hip injury) was good to go.

Tied 1-1 after Foegele, who was ejected from Game 2 for kneeing, scored his second goal of the playoffs under Bobrovsky's glove at 1:49 of the middle period, the netminder made big stops on Zach Hyman and McDavid inside a frothing Rogers Place.

The Panthers then took advantage of a Skinner miscue at the other end of the rink when he couldn't stop a puck behind his net. Eetu Luostarinen won a race with Cody Ceci and found Tarasenko in front for his fourth at 9:12.

Nurse committed another turnover that led to Matthew Tkachuk passing to Bennett, who roofed his seventh at 13:57.

Barkov added to Edmonton's misery on a breakaway 1:34 later to make it 4-1 — and further silence the orange-and-blue-clad crowd.

Broberg gave the Oilers some life at 6:02 of the second when the rookie defenceman fired his first goal upstairs on Bobrovsky.

McLeod made it 4-3 at 14:43 with his second on a deflection to breathe more life into Rogers Place.

Bobrovsky then denied the winger of the tying goal from in close, and the Panthers held on from there despite some nervy moments.

Reinhart opened the scoring with 62 seconds left in the opening period with the teams playing 4-on-4 after a big scrum around Bobrovsky's net.

The winger, who scored 57 times in the regular season, redirected Gustav Forsling's feed past Skinner for his ninth of the post-season after some good work from Barkov.

The Oilers had plenty of chances before Florida's breakthrough, but Bobrovsky was there at every turn.

Connor Brown had two short-handed opportunities, while a pair of power-play chances failed to connect despite a string of good looks for McDavid, Bouchard and Leon Draisaitl.

Bobrovsky's best save came on a cross-ice pass from Draisaitl to McDavid, who has 34 points in the playoffs, but just two assists in this series, that the goaltender read perfectly.

DRAISAITL ESCAPES

The big German avoided supplementary discipline for the play in Game 2 that knocked Barkov out of the action.

"I'm not a player who plays with an intent to injure anybody by any means," Draisaitl, who has never been suspended, said Thursday morning. "I have no track record of that. I'm not a player who enjoys that part of the game — injuring other players or anything like that. I caught him in an unfortunate spot."

DAVIES IN THE HOUSE

Canadian soccer star Alphonso Davies, who grew up in Edmonton, was at Rogers Place supporting the Oilers ahead of the Copa America tournament later this month.

TRAVEL WOES

The Panthers were delayed arriving in Edmonton by three hours Wednesday by a massive storm that drenched the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area.

Florida head coach Paul Maurice downplayed any potential impact for his team, but added there was a downside.

"The coaches put on seven pounds," he quipped. "That's the only ramification — we ate 12 meals."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 13, 2024.

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