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Panthers win their 1st Stanley Cup, top Oilers 2-1 in Game 7

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SUNRISE, Fla. -

There was no collapse. The Florida Panthers are Stanley Cup champions for the first time, and they took about the hardest path possible to the title.

Sam Reinhart and Carter Verhaeghe scored goals, Sergei Bobrovsky made 23 saves and the Panthers beat the Edmonton Oilers 2-1 on Monday night in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. It was the third title-round appearance in Florida's 30-year history; it was swept in 1996 by Colorado and routed 4-1 by Vegas last season.

This time, they were on the right side of history -- after avoiding what would have been a historic collapse. The Panthers won the first three games of the series, then lost the next three and needed a win on Monday to avoid joining the 1942 Detroit Red Wings as the only teams to lose the final after taking a 3-0 lead in the title round.

"It's not what I thought it would be," Panthers coach Paul Maurice said. "It's so much better."

It wasn't easy. Not even close. But it's done.

"It's heavy," Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov said, after he took the celebratory first lap with the Cup.

But not too heavy. Barkov handed it to Bobrovsky and the celebration was on. It took until the very end for the Panthers to deny Connor McDavid his first title, and Edmonton what would have been its first Cup since 1990.

McDavid won the Conn Smythe as MVP of the Stanley Cup playoffs. He didn't come out for the trophy. It's not the one he wanted, anyway. The Cup is what they play for, and it was Florida that hoisted it.

Edmonton Oilers fans react to the loss against the Florida Panthers in game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final, in Edmonton on Monday June 24, 2024. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

"It's not a dream anymore. It's not a dream. It's reality," said Panthers forward Matthew Tkachuk, who got traded to Florida two summers ago with this as his goal. "I can't believe it. I can't believe it. ... I can't believe how good these two years have been. So thankful for this group of guys. It's the best place, best guys. It's something really special here with what we have."

Mattias Janmark had the goal for Edmonton and Stuart Skinner stopped 19 shots for the Oilers. The Oilers also couldn't snap Canada's title drought; it's been 1993 and counting since a team based in Canada won the Cup.

Montreal was the last to do so, 30 seasons ago. Since then, there have been seven attempts by teams from Canadian-based cities -- Vancouver in 1994 and 2011, Calgary in 2004, the Oilers in 2006, Ottawa in 2007 and the Canadiens in 2021 -- to win titles, and all were in vain.

South Florida now has one of everything when it comes to titles from the four major pro sports leagues in the U.S. The Miami Dolphins were champions twice, the then-Florida Marlins were champions twice, the Miami Heat have three titles and now the Panthers have joined the party.

Welcome, Stanley. The Panthers have been waiting. Maurice hoisted the Cup by the bench, closed his eyes tight to control the emotion and let out a yell. General manager Bill Zito didn't bother even trying to not let the yell out. And in the stands, Tkachuk's family -- his father, Keith, never won a Cup -- reveled in the moment, knowing their surname will soon be on Lord Stanley.

"This is for them," Tkachuk said.

Bobrovsky was as cool as could be, even in the biggest moments. Oilers defenceman Evan Bouchard had a good look from the right circle with about 14 seconds left in the second period; Bobrovsky blocked the shot, and the puck bounced off him and into the air.

No problem. Bobrovsky took his stick and batted the puck away again, more like he was playing morning pickleball at a park than in the biggest game of his life -- literally, the last line of defence against the Oilers, and against a piece of history that the Panthers desperately fought to avoid.

Florida led this title series 3-0, then got outscored 18-5 in Games 4, 5 and 6 to waste three chances at winning the Cup. Edmonton was one win away from becoming the second team in NHL history to win the Cup after dropping the first three games; Toronto did it to Detroit in 1942, and no team has pulled off such a comeback since.

They brought in seven-time Grammy winner Alanis Morissette -- she was born in Canada and became a dual U.S. citizen in 2005 -- to sing the national anthems. Hardly anybody could hear her; the Oilers fans drowned her out for "O Canada," the Panthers fans did the same for "The Star-Spangled Banner." They had Panthers legend Roberto Luongo bang the ceremonial bass drum after that; he urged fans to "let's go" with an extra word in there that needed to be bleeped a few times.

"I just can't believe we did it," Barkov said.

The pregame was raucous. The stage was set.

And the teams came out absolutely ablaze.

The Panthers got the first goal just 4:27 into the game when Verhaeghe waved his stick at the puck that was fired in from the left side by Evan Rodrigues and got just enough to redirect it past Skinner for a 1-0 lead -- the first Florida lead since the end of Game 3.

They waited more than a week to be back on top. They stayed there for just over two minutes.

Janmark got behind the Florida defence and beat Bobrovsky over the right shoulder at 6:44, knotting things right back up and ensuring that this Game 7 of the final -- like all 17 of the previous such games -- wouldn't end 1-0.

It stayed that way through wild ebbs and flows -- the Oilers controlled long stretches, the Panthers would counter, back and forth -- until Reinhart scored late in the second to put Florida up 2-1. It capped a crazy sequence, one where Florida defenceman Dmitry Kulikov wound up in the net to help prevent an Edmonton goal seconds before Reinhart beat Skinner. The goal was Reinhart's 67th of the season, extending his Florida single-season record, and it was up to the Panthers to make it hold up.

Florida was an NHL-best 44-0-3 entering Monday when leading after two periods this season. An NHL-best 85-2-6 in that situation in the two seasons under coach Maurice, too.

They slammed the door, one last time. And the Cup was their reward.

"This is the best moment of my life so far," veteran Panthers defenceman Aaron Ekblad said. "Nothing tops it."

Below is CTVNews.ca's live coverage of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Third period – 1:35

The Oilers call a timeout with just over 90 seconds left in the third period. Panthers’ fans are buzzing as the dream of their first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history is getting closer to becoming a reality.

The Oilers' net is empty. 

Third period – 3:29

A quick scramble in front of the Panthers’ net has Sergei Bobrovsky doing acrobatics, but the puck can’t find the back of the Florida net, and it’s still 2-1 Panthers.

If Edmonton wants to tie this game, they’re going to need to throw everything they can at Florida in the dying minutes of regulation.

Meanwhile, Panthers’ fans are singing Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” between whistles. 

Third period – 7:45

The Panthers seem content with icing the puck over and over again, killing as much time on the clock as possible. 

Third period – 12:52

Usually on separate lines, the Oilers are putting Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on the same line in hopes of sparking some offence and tying the game. At this point in the game, McDavid has two shots, and Draisaitl has none.

As Jason Gregor of The Nation Network points out, only one team in NHL history has achieved a third-period comeback in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final: the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, who are also the only team to comeback from a 3-0 deficit to win the Stanley Cup.

Third period – 14:37

Oilers' defender Evan Bouchard takes a high-sticking penalty, but the Oilers are able to kill it and are now 20-for-21 on the penalty kill in this series, a success rate of 95.2 per cent. 

Third period – 20:20

The third period is underway between the Oilers and Panthers.

If Florida can hold onto its lead, they will win their first Stanley Cup championship in their 30-year history.

End of second period: Panthers lead 2-1

While the defence tightened up in the second period, both teams still generated good scoring chances. Panthers' goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and Oilers’ netminder Stuart Skinner have kept their teams in it, but it’s Bobrovsky who looks like the Conn Smythe Trophy-calibre goalie he was through the first three rounds of the post-season.

Second period – 4:49

Panthers’ forward Sam Reinhart buries his 10th goal of the post-season to make it 2-1 Florida. 

Fans at Amerant Bank Arena might be as loud as they've ever been in this series after that goal. 

Second period – 8:13

The Oilers have been able to create lots of pressure in the Panthers’ end, but goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky has been lights out, stopping every shot he’s faced in the second period.

Second period – 20:20

The second period is underway between the Oilers and Panthers.

End of first period: Oilers, Panthers tied 1-1

Lots of energy between the two teams, each scoring in the first seven minutes of the game. The Panthers were all over the Oilers in the last few minutes of the first period, but were unable to capitalize.

Florida only has one more shot than Edmonton, but they’re out-hitting Edmonton 17-5 and winning puck battles in the Oilers’ zone. 

Edmonton Oilers centre Mattias Janmark (13) reacts after scoring a goal during the first period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final against the Florida Panthers, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (Rebecca Blackwell/AP Photo)

First period – 4:16

The teams have exchanged multiple chances in the last 10 minutes, with the shots 6-5 in favour of Florida. Oilers defenceman Evan Bouchard hit the post with a slapshot from the point, nearly giving Edmonton their first lead of the game. 

First period  13:16

Just a few minutes later, Oilers’ forward Mattias Janmark scores his fourth of the post-season off a feed from Cody Ceci, tying the game 1-1. 

Oilers fans watching from the Ice District in Edmonton reacted accordingly after Jammark tied the game. 

First period  15:53

Panthers' forward Carter Verhaeghe opens the scoring just over four minutes into the first period, giving Florida 1-0 lead over the Oilers.

First period – 20:00

And we’re underway! Again, chants of “Let’s Go Oilers” and “Let’s Go Panthers” clash with one another. 

8:19 p.m. EDT / 6:19 p.m. MST

Canadian singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette is tonight’s anthem singer. The Grammy Award-winning musician sings the Canadian anthem first, joined by the Edmonton fans in attendance. 

8:13 p.m. EDT / 6:13 p.m. MST 

Puck drop is minutes away. Florida fans cheer “Let’s Go Panthers,” but the sound of Edmonton fans screaming “Let’s Go Oilers” clashes with the home fans. 

8:00 p.m. EDT / 6 p.m. MST

Only one lineup change between the two teams: Panthers’ forward Kyle Okposo will replace Nick Cousins in Florida’s bottom-six forward group.

The 36-year-old played in the first five games of the series, but was a healthy scratch for the Panthers’ 5-1 loss to the Oilers on Friday. In 16 post-season games, Okposo has two assists. 

7:45 p.m. EDT / 5:45 p.m. MST

TSN hockey insider Chris Johnston shares a picture from the press box in Amerant Bank Arena, indicating many fans have made the trip from Edmonton to see Game 7.

"Pretty healthy mix of Panthers and Oilers fans here for Game 7," Johnston said in his post.

7:22 p.m. EDT / 5:22 p.m. MST

Edmonton Police Service have asked fans to refrain from congregating near Rogers Place unless they're attending the watch party.

"The fan parks have reached full capacity," EPS said.  

Edmonton Police congregate near Rogers Arena ahead of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Edmonton Oilers and Florida Panthers on June 24, 2024. (Sean McClune/CTV News)

Pregame notes

Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers go into Monday night looking to make history.

The Oilers, at one point down 3-0 to the Florida Panthers and looking dead in the water, managed to string together three wins and force a deciding Game 7 that, regardless of the outcome, will make history.

Follow CTVNews.ca for Game 7 updates throughout the night.  

Edmonton is looking to become just the fifth team in NHL history to win a best-of-seven series after trailing 3-0, and the first since the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs to do so in the Stanley Cup Final.

The 27-year-old McDavid has been dominant throughout the Stanley Cup Final, scoring three goals and eight assists for 11 points against the Panthers. He leads the post-season in assists (34) and points (42), becoming just the third player in NHL history to hit the 40-point mark in a single playoff season. 

The other two were Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.

Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid breaks down ice during practice on June 23, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla., the day before taking on the Florida Panthers in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

McDavid, who already broke Gretzky's record for most assists in a single playoff season, is also five points away from tying "The Great One's" record for most in a single post-season of 47, which he set in 1985.

Another Edmonton player has made history this post-season. Defenceman Evan Bouchard broke Oilers’ legend Paul Coffey’s record for most assists by a defender in a single playoff season, now with 26.

The 24-year-old Bouchard, only in his third full NHL season, also became the fourth defender in league history to record 30 points in a single post-season. The other three are Coffey, Brian Leetch and Al MacInnis.

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