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Sergei Bobrovsky brilliant as Panthers blank Oilers in Stanley Cup final opener

Sergei Bobrovsky made 32 saves to register the third playoff shutout of his career as the Florida Panthers defeated the visiting Edmonton Oilers 3-0 on Saturday to take a 1-0 lead in the Stanley Cup final.

2-time Vezina Trophy winner makes 32 saves to help Florida triumph 3-0 in opener

Florida Panthers male goalie makes a save against Oilers male player during the first period in Game One of the 2024 Stanley Cup final at Amerant Bank Arena on June 08, 2024 in Sunrise, Florida.

Sergei Bobrovsky made 32 saves to register the third playoff shutout of his career as the Florida Panthers defeated the visiting Edmonton Oilers 3-0 on Saturday to take a 1-0 lead in the Stanley Cup final.

Carter Verhaeghe, Evan Rodrigues and Eetu Luostarinen, into an empty net, scored for Florida. Aleksander Barkov had two assists.

"Incredible," Florida forward Sam Bennett said referring to Bobrovsky's perferomance. "We have so much belief, and he gives us so much energy back there. It's amazing to watch him perform in net. He's been a star all year long."

Added Panthers winger Matthew Tkachuk: "Everything you want in a teammate, especially a goalie."

Stuart Skinner stopped 15 shots for Edmonton.

"They are a great offensive team," Bobrovsky said after picking up his second shutout of the 2024 post-season. "They bring the good challenge."

Game 2 of a title series with the furthest distance between competing cities in NHL history goes Monday back at Amerant Arena before the best-of-seven series shifts to the Alberta capital.

WATCH l Bobrovsky posts 3rd career shutout in playoffs as Panthers top Oilers:

Panthers' Sergei Bobrovsky shuts out Oilers in Game 1 of Stanley Cup final

4 hours ago

Duration 1:36

Sergei Bobrovsky made 32 saves for his third career shutout in the playoffs. Panthers lead the Oilers 1-0 in the Stanley Cup final.

The Oilers are in the final for the first time since 2006 and are looking for their first sip from hockey's holy grail since winning the franchise's fifth Cup in 1990.

"Game 1's of series are always unique because you don't know what to expect," Oilers left wing Zach Hyman said. "You hear everything about what the team does. You watch video. But you haven't played them for months. As the series settles in, you are pretty well aware of what works, what doesn't work."

McDavid couldn't solve Bobrovsky

For stars like Connor McDavid, a generational talent who has faced pressure since the moment he entered the league nine years ago, the game started business as usual.

McDavid showed off his unmatched acceleration in the opening period when he slipped past Panthers defenceman Aaron Ekblad for a one-on-one chance with Bobrovsky, only to be denied in a theme that repeated itself throughout the night.

Even McDavid, who leads all scorers in the post-season with 31 points, couldn't cut through the Florida defense despite no shortage of chances.

"I felt there was lots to like, to be honest," said McDavid, the three-time league MVP playing in his first final. "I felt like we had lots and lots of looks, and didn't give up too much. What we did give up was dangerous and they capitalized, as good teams do."

McDavid added that Edmonton's effort Saturday showed that the Oilers won't let their lack of experience compared to the Panthers stop them.

"I know how many people gave us a chance in this series," McDavid said, "and I think we showed tonight that we can play with them. That's a confidence booster for this group — but we know that our best can play with anybody."

The Panthers have never topped the NHL mountain after making the championship matchup in 1996 and 2023.

Florida opened the scoring at 3:59 of the first period when Verhaeghe scored his 10th goal of the post-season off a slick feed from Barkov on the home side's first shot.

Oilers looking to bring Cup back to Canada

The Oilers, who are looking to become the first Canadian team to bring the Cup across the border since the 1993 Montreal Canadiens, controlled much of the action from there, but couldn't solve Bobrovsky.

The Panthers goaltender denied McDavid on a decent chance before Edmonton centre Adam Henrique crushed Florida defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson with a big hit behind the net.

Edmonton killed off its 29th straight penalty later in the period before Henrique was denied by Bobrovsky on a breakaway and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was stoned on a power-play move to the backhand as the Panthers went more than 10 minutes without a shot.

Edmonton's scorching man advantage couldn't connect on an opportunity that stretched from late in the first to early in the second — Hyman fired high from in tight with Bobrovsky down and out — before Florida doubled its lead.

Bennett beat Oilers defenceman Cody Ceci to the puck in the corner and caught both Darnell Nurse and Evander Kane napping in front for Rodrigues to score his fourth goal of the playoffs at 2:16.

Bobrovsky then went to work, stopping a Bouchard chance that was batted out of mid-air a Ceci blast that looked to be heading in hit teammate Corey Perry in the crease.

Bennett then crunched McDavid — his minor hockey teammate growing up in the Greater Toronto Area — with a solid check.

Five male hockey players celebrate a goal near the glass separating the rink from the fans.

Things turned a little nasty in what's expected to be a physical series when Connor Brown pushed both Bobrovsky and the frozen puck into Florida's net on a sequence that was immediately waved off.

In the final for the second time in 12 months after falling to the Vegas Golden Knights last June, the Panthers were under siege on an another Edmonton power play — a league-topping 37.3 per cent in the playoffs entering Saturday — later in the period.

Bobrovsky stopped McDavid and Bouchard before Nugent-Hopkins fired high over the net. Warren Foegele had a couple of chances moments later which the 35-year-old netminder also thwarted as fans inside Amerant Arena chanted his name as the Oilers led 26-12 on the shot clock through 40 minutes.

Bobrovsky kept it up early in the third with a save on McDavid off a Leon Drasaitl setup.

Edmonton killed off a 30th consecutive power play later in the period and got a few more chances at the other end, but still couldn't solve the Florida netminder before Luostarinen iced it late.

"Maybe it was the hockey gods getting us back for that Game 6 [versus Dallas]," McDavid said, referring to Edmonton's performance in the clinching Game 6 of the Western Conference final, "where we probably didn't deserve to win. Tonight maybe we deserved at least one goal, maybe two, and we don't find a way to get them."

The winner of Game 1 in a best-of-seven final holds an all-time series record of 64-20 (. 762). The last three Cup winners won the opener, but all three from 2018 to 2020 rallied from 1-0 deficits.

The Cup was on the ice before the opening faceoff for the first time since the 1960s. It appeared in the stands ahead of Game 1 of the 2020 final in Edmonton's fan-less COVID-19 bubble.

WATCH l Oilers have chance to do what no Canadian hockey team has in 31 year:

What to know about the Edmonton Oilers’ run to the Stanley Cup final

19 hours ago

Duration 1:13

The Edmonton Oilers are playing for the Stanley Cup, and have a chance to do something no Canadian hockey team has done in 31 years: win the whole damn thing.

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