June 24th, 2024

Rodrigues scores twice, Panthers down Oilers to take 2-0 lead in Stanley Cup final

By Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press on June 10, 2024.

Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (72) makes a save as Edmonton Oilers forward Zach Hyman (18) and Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) eye the loose puck during second period game 2 action of the NHL Stanley Cup finals in Sunrise, Fla., on Monday, June 10, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

SUNRISE, Fla. – The Oilers are heading home in a deep hole.

Evan Rodrigues scored twice in the third period as the Florida Panthers downed Edmonton 4-1 on Monday to take a 2-0 lead in the Stanley Cup final.

Niko Mikkola and Aaron Ekblad, into an empty net, had the other Florida goals. Sergei Bobrovsky made 18 saves after blanking the Oilers 3-0 in Game 1. Anton Lundell had two assists.

Mattias Ekholm had replied for Edmonton. Stuart Skinner stopped 24 shots.

The best-of-seven series now shifts to the Alberta capital for Games 3 and 4 beginning Thursday.

Rodrigues snapped a 1-1 tie at 3:11 of the third when he ripped his fifth goal of the playoffs – and second of the series – on a shot that nicked Ekholm in front after Oilers defenceman Evan Bouchard put the puck right on his stick in front of Skinner.

Edmonton centre Leon Draisaitl was whistled for roughing on Florida captain Aleksander Barkov, who did not return, midway through the period, and the Panthers’ struggling power play finally broke through on the Oilers after 34 straight kills. Bouchard’s tough night continued when he got beat along the boards and Lundell fed a pass into the slot that Rodrigues redirected past Skinner at 12:26.

Oilers captain Connor McDavid had a breakaway with Edmonton and Florida playing 4-on-4, but Bobrovsky made the save with under six minutes to go in regulation.

Ekblad iced it with his first of the post-season into the empty net with 2:28 left in regulation before fans at Amerant Bank Arena chanted “We Want the Cup!” as the clock wound down.

Florida is now a pair of wins from its first Cup after losing out in the 1996 final and again last spring. Edmonton is making its first appearance in the title matchup since 2006 and looking for its first sip from hockey’s holy grail since 1990.

The Oilers made two lineup changes, with the under-fire defenceman Cody Ceci scratched for the six-foot-seven Vincent Desharnais. Connor Carrick replaced Corey Perry up front.

Edmonton forward Warren Foegele was assessed a major penalty and a game misconduct for kneeing Panthers centre Eetu Luostarinen at 9:21 of the opening period before Florida defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson was whistled for tripping.

With the teams playing 4-on-4, Ekholm took a pass from McDavid and moved in on a 2-on-1 before firing Edmonton’s first shot through Bobrovsky’s five-hole for the Oilers’ first goal of the series – and the blueliner’s fifth of the playoffs – at 11:17.

Panthers defenceman Brandon Montour hit the crossbar on the next shift.

The Oilers killed off the rest of Foegele’s major to improve to 32-for-32 when short-handed going all the way back to the second round against the Vancouver Canucks.

Edmonton then killed a Bouchard penalty that stretched from the first to second period to make it 33 straight.

The Oilers lost Darnell Nurse (undisclosed injury) midway through the first after he took a hit from Evan Rodrigues. The defenceman took a couple of shifts the rest of the game after initially heading to the locker room, but was largely unavailable.

Florida evened things 1-1 at 9:34 when Mikkola took a drop pass from Lundell off the rush and fired the puck past Skinner’s glove for his second.

Skinner then denied Matthew Tkachuk one-on-one. Bouchard hit one of Bobrovsky’s posts on a power play and Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins rang a puck off the crossbar shortly after the infraction expired.

Bouchard took another penalty toward the end of the period, but Edmonton’s kill once again did its job – including a big stop from Skinner on Sam Bennett – to tie the 2001 St. Louis Blues for the third-longest streak in one playoff.

YOUNG TALENT ON DISPLAY

Projected to go No. 1 at the NHL draft later this month, Macklin Celebrini and fellow prospects Artyom Levshunov, Cayden Lindstrom, Zeev Buium took in Monday’s action.

VIEWERSHIP BOOST

The NHL said Game 1 was watched by 7.1 million viewers in the United States and Canada, a 43 per cent jump compared to last year.

THAT DON’T IMPRESS ME MUCH

Canadian pop country icon Shania Twain and rockers Our Lady Peace will play shows in Edmonton later this week outside Rogers Place. Our Lady Peace is set to perform before Game 3, while Twain is slated to hit the stage ahead of Game 4.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 10, 2024.

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