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Panthers hold off Oilers to move 1 win away from 1st Stanley Cup title

Sergei Bobrovsky made 32 saves as the visiting Florida Panthers built a big lead before holding on late to down the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 on Thursday and take a 3-0 chokehold in the best-of-seven title series.

Edmonton will try to avoid sweep on Saturday at home in Game 4

Three male ice hockey players wrap their arms around each other in celebration on the ice as spectators watch from behind the glass.

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

Sergei Bobrovsky made 32 saves as the visiting Florida Panthers built a big lead before holding on late to down the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 on Thursday and take a 3-0 chokehold in the best-of-seven title series.

"We had lots of looks," said McDavid, who had two assists in a third-period comeback attempt that fell short. "The game was right there."

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

"The guys step up," Bobrovsky said. "We stay together, we protect the house and just stay patient.

"We take our moments."

WATCH l Barkov scores decisive goal in Game 3:

Panthers one victory away from 1st Stanley Cup title after defeating Oilers in Game 3

4 hours ago

Duration 0:53

Florida scored three goals in the second period then held on for a 4-3 win over Edmonton in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final. The Panthers lead the series 3-0 and have a chance to clinch their first Cup title on Saturday.

'There's a lot of belief'

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

"Two of the three games probably could have went either way," said Draisaitl, who's tied for second in playoff scoring with teammate Evan Bouchard behind McDavid, but has been held at bay by the suffocating Panthers. "We could be up 2-1 right now, but that's not the case. It's not how this league or how this sport works, unfortunately.

"We've just got to find a way to dig ourselves out."

It's a gargantuan — near-impossible — task ahead.

Teams holding a 3-0 series lead in a best-of-seven final own an all-time record of 27-1.

"There's a lot of belief," Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch said. "You look at our season this year and we've got two eight-game winning streaks, we've had a 16-game winning streak. When things go well, we can really turn it up.

"It's not like we're getting outplayed and that team is better than us."

The scoreboard suggests otherwise with the Panthers just 60 minutes from clinching their first Cup on Saturday back at Rogers Place. Game 5, if necessary, would be Tuesday at Amerant Bank Arena in Sunrise, Fla.

Florida, which lost to the Vegas Golden Knights last spring at this stage, 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 Edmonton (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.

"Everyone in that dressing room feels same way I do — we can string together a lot of wins," Knoblauch said. "We've shown it. The stakes are a little bit higher … but I don't think there's any doubt in our room."

Barkov suited up after taking a forearm to the jaw from 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 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 arena.

Skinner miscue

The Panthers then took advantage of a Skinner miscue at the other end 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.

"They dump the puck in and we're down 2-1," Knoblauch said. "That was a tough one."

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.

"We're playing in June," Skinner said. "That's something to be very grateful for. At the same time … it is disappointing being down 3-0. We've got to let that reality sink in."

The Oilers showed life in the third when Broberg doubled his goal total upstairs at 6:02 and McLeod tipped home his second at 14:43, but Bobrovsky denied the winger of the tying goal from in close, and the Panthers held on from there.

"[We're] fighting for each other," Tarasenko said. "And also playing for each other."

Reinhart opened the scoring with 62 seconds left in the opening period with the teams playing 4-on-4.

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, Draisaitl and Bouchard.

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

The Oilers will try to regroup. The mountain they face is steep.

"There's frustration that we're down," Knoblauch said. "But there's a difference between frustration and quitting. There's absolutely no quit.

"We just need to keep pushing."

The Panthers arrived in Edmonton less than 24 hours before puck drop Wednesday because of a massive storm that drenched the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area.

WATCH l Rodrigues leads Panthers past Oilers in Game 2:

Rodrigues pots a pair of goals, Panthers claim Game 2 over Oilers

3 days ago

Duration 1:47

Evan Rodrigues scored twice as Florida handed Edmonton a 4-1 Game 2 loss in Sunrise Monday. The Panthers now lead the series 2-0.

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