Stanley Cup Finals: Florida Panthers win Game 7 to capture first title

Sam Reinhart

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers won their first Stanley Cup on Monday night, defeating the Edmonton Oilers 2-1 in Game 7 and avoiding what would have been a historic collapse.

The Panthers got goals from Carter Verhaeghe and Sam Reinhart to hold off a determined charge by Edmonton, which rallied from a 3-0 series deficit to force a Game 7. Edmonton was attempting to become the first team since the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs to win the Cup after falling behind by three games.

The Panthers had won the first three games of the series, but the Oilers, seeking their sixth Stanley Cup and first since 1990, won the next three to force a winner-take-all game.

Edmonton was the first squad in 82 years to force a Game 7 in the Finals after falling behind by three games. The Toronto Maple Leafs trailed Detroit 3-0 in the series in 1942 before winning the next four games. The roles were nearly reversed in 1945 when Toronto held a 3-0 lead and the Red Wings forced a Game 7. But the Maple Leafs won Game 7 that season.

Monday’s game at Amerant Bank Arena marked the 18th time the Stanley Cup Finals had gone to a seventh game and the first since the St. Louis Blues beat the Boston Bruins in 2019.

Reinhart put the Panthers ahead for good, making it 2-1 with 4:49 left in the second period when he scored his 10th goal of the playoffs and second of the Stanley Cup Finals.

The Panthers scored first as Verhaeghe tipped in a goal 4:27 into the first period. But Edmonton bounced back nearly 2 1/2 minutes later when Mattias Janmark wristed a shot past Florida goalie Sergei Bobrovsky on a breakaway 6:47 into the contest.

Edmonton’s Connor McDavid won the Conn Smythe Trophy, signifying the most valuable player of the NHL postseason. But the biggest trophy belonged to the Panthers.

Florida brought the first Stanley Cup to South Florida after losing 8-1, 5-3 and 5-1 to Edmonton in Games 4 through 6. But Game 7 would be different.

For the second straight year, a first-time champion was crowned. The Vegas Golden Knights won the Cup last season, USA Today reported. Florida also became the third NHL team to win the Stanley Cup after losing in the Finals the previous season. The Panthers joined the Pittsburgh Penguins (2009) and the Oilers (1984).

Panthers coach Paul Maurice won his first championship. He had the most NHL regular-season coaching victories (869) without a Stanley Cup, according to the newspaper.

The victory by Florida also extended Canada’s drought in the Stanley Cup Finals. The last team north of the border to win the Cup was the Montreal Canadiens, who notched their 24th title in 1993.

Edmonton’s loss marked the seventh time since the Canadiens’ win that a Canadian team had failed to win the Cup, according to USA Today.

Only four teams in NHL history had trailed 3-0 in a best-of-seven playoff series and rallied to win. In addition to the 1942 Maple Leafs, the feat was achieved by the New York Islanders against the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1975 NHL semifinals; Philadelphia in 2010 against Boston in the Eastern Conference semifinals; and the Los Angeles Kings in 2014, who rallied past San Jose in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

It was the first title for a South Florida pro team since the Miami Heat won the NBA title in 2013, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

The Panthers join Tampa Bay as Florida franchises to win a Stanley Cup. The Lightning won in 2004, 2020, and 2021

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