PREVIEW: Panthers, Oilers battle for the Stanley Cup in epic Game 7

SUNRISE, Fla. – Once more unto the breach.

With a chance to hoist Lord Stanley on the line, the Florida Panthers will host the Edmonton Oilers for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final at Amerant Bank Arena on Monday at 8 p.m. ET.

Florida is seeking its first Stanley Cup, while Edmonton last won in 1990.

“We have an unbelievable opportunity,” Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov said.

A roller coaster of a series, this is just the 17th time the Final has gone to Game 7.

In those games, the home team boasts a 12-5 record.

After the Panthers raced out to a commanding 3-0 lead in the series, the Oilers responded with three straight wins of their own to force a decisive winner-take-all contest in Sunrise.

In each of the last three games, the Oilers rode an early lead to victory.

Trying to swing things back in their favor in front of what should be an all-time raucous crowd, the Panthers know that getting off to a strong start will be crucial in Game 7.

Overall, the team that breaks the ice owns a 5-1 record in the series.

“Looking forward to having a good start,” Panthers forward Ryan Lomberg said. “The building is going to electric. It’s something our fans deserve. We’re excited to hopefully put on a good show.”

When it comes to what the Panthers will need to do in order to come out on top in Game 7, head coach Paul Maurice points to how his team performed just a few days ago in Game 5.

Despite suffering a 5-3 loss on home ice, the Panthers felt they dominated the game for long stretches. Owning a 3-1 lead in goals at 5-on-5, they were simply undone by special teams, where the Oilers had two goals on the power play and one shorthanded strike.

If they get a similar performance in Game 7, they like their chances.

“The biggest part of it is built over years,” Maurice said of preparing for tonight’s do-or-die matchup. “It’s built over time. X’s and O’s, you’re as dialed as you’re going to be. We’ll go through the basics of it, and then it’s about setting a tone that allows them to play with a certain amount of freedom in that game. You encourage that in the style of play we play.”

The Panthers will be making just one lineup change for Game 7 as veteran Kyle Okposo will slot in on the fourth line in place of Nick Cousins, who had re-entered the lineup in Game 6.

For the Oilers, no information on their lineup will come until warmups.

Between the pipes, it’ll be Sergei Bobrovsky against Stuart Skinner once again.

After Bobrovsky stole the show with a 3-0 record and .953 save percentage in the first three games of the series, Skinner has found his game in his last three for the Oilers. After posting a .868 save percentage in the first three games of the series, he’s since gone 3-0 with a .942 save percentage.

Between both teams, only one player has ever played in a Game 7 in the Final.

In 2019, Vladimir Tarasenko captured the Cup with the St. Louis Blues.

Back in a similar situation, his experience should help the Panthers.

“I think that’s why he was targeted at the deadline,” Panthers forward Sam Reinhart said of Tarasenko, who was picked up by the Panthers in March. “Guys wanted him in their locker room. We’ve felt that experience. We’ve felt that knowledge that he’s brought to our group.”

Speaking of the group, that’s what Game 7 is all about for the Panthers.

Making back-to-back trips to the Stanley Cup Final, this will be the NHL-leading 45th playoff game that the team’s core group of players has played together over the past two seasons.

In the biggest game of their lives, they hope that experience will shine through.

“We’re a really close group,” Panthers forward Sam Bennett said. “We’ve been through a lot together. It’s been a long year, but I think our closeness and how well we mesh together is really going to help us in this situation.”

For one team, hockey immortality awaits.

PANTHERS PLAYOFF LEADERS

Goals: Verhaeghe (10)

Assists: Tkachuk (16)

Points: Barkov, Tkachuk (22)

Hits: Bennett (84)

Blocks: Ekblad (46)

OILERS PLAYOFF LEADERS

Goals: Hyman (16)

Assists: McDavid (34)

Points: McDavid (42)

Hits: Holloway (82)

Blocks: Nurse (62)

THEY SAID IT

“We won three; they won three. Most teams when you lose three [in a row] in a playoff series, you don’t have a chance at another game. Somehow both of us have an opportunity still. Very exciting. Leave it all out there. Desperation on both sides. It’s been a very even series. It all comes down to this.” – Matthew Tkachuk

“It comes down to one game. The rest is history. We get this win, the rest doesn’t matter.” – Brandon Montour

“I think [Game] 7s are just a completely unique animal. I don’t think it relates, in terms of pressure, to anything because there is no tomorrow. It’s a completely different feel. I think we’ve been immersed in the weight of it for a week.” – Paul Maurice

FIVE CATS STATS

– Paul Maurice owns a 4-0 career record in Game 7s.

– Of the 17 all-time Game 7s in the Stanley Cup Final, seven have been one-goal games.

– The Panthers own an all-time record of 2-1 in Game 7s.

– The Panthers own an 8-4 record at home this postseason.

– Carter Verhaeghe has scored a team-high six goals at home this postseason.

PROJECTED LINEUP (SUBJECT TO CHANGE)

Forwards

Carter Verhaeghe – Aleksander Barkov – Sam Reinhart

Evan Rodrigues – Sam Bennett – Matthew Tkachuk

Eetu Luostarinen – Anton Lundell – Vladimir Tarasenko

Ryan Lomberg – Kevin Stenlund – Kyle Okposo

Defensemen

Gustav Forsling – Aaron Ekblad

Niko Mikkola – Brandon Montour

Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Dmitry Kulikov

Goaltenders

Sergei Bobrovsky

Anthony Stolarz

HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN

When: Monday, June 24 at 8 p.m. ET

Where: Amerant Bank Arena – Sunrise, FL

TV & Streaming: ABC, ESPN+

Radio: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 92.1 WZZR (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 101.7 WCZR (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM Channel 219 / App & Streaming 932; Panthers App

Tickets: Here

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