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Panthers not assuming anything with 3-0 lead

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Published in Hockey
Friday, 14 June 2024 14:24

EDMONTON, Alberta -- History says the Florida Panthers most likely wrapped up the Stanley Cup by winning Game 3 against the Edmonton Oilers and taking a 3-0 series lead.

Just don't tell that to the Florida Panthers.

"We don't look at that stuff. You guys do. I'm sure a lot of other people do, but we don't," winger Matthew Tkachuk said Friday.

The Panthers are seeking their first Stanley Cup in franchise history, and the odds are in their favor: Teams that go up 3-0 in a best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final have won 27 of 28 series. The only exception was in 1942, when the Toronto Maple Leafs rallied to defeat the Detroit Red Wings.

Teams that trail 3-0 in a series have avoided a sweep just eight times. The most recent two examples were the Montreal Canadiens winning Game 4 against the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2021 and the New York Rangers doing the same against the Los Angeles Kings in 2014.

Even if the Oilers manage to send the series back to South Florida with a Game 4 win, only three teams in NHL history have ever forced a Game 6 after being down 3-0 in the Stanley Cup Final.

Tkachuk said the Panthers are ignoring that history.

"We've done such a good job of having that one game, simple mindset. Win your first period. Win your first few shifts. It's all you've got to do tomorrow," he said of Saturday night's Game 4. "It's really calm, kind of chill and relaxed group today. We'll use that to our advantage."

The Panthers have played a masterful defensive series, not allowing a goal by any of the Oilers' top five scorers, including Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. They have blanked Edmonton's heralded power play -- in the teams' five meetings this season, the Oilers are 0-for-22 against the Florida penalty kill.

After the Game 3 loss, McDavid said the Oilers are still trying to find ways to break through that defense.

"We haven't beat them in three games. We've had stretches that are good, stretches that are bad. Yeah, we're trying to figure them out," he said.

Tkachuk underscored that it's a total team effort to stop players like McDavid, the postseason's leading scorer.

"It's a just very committed five-man effort out there against those guys. They're very talented players, and you have to be [committed] against those guys if you want to have success," Tkachuk said. "As many offensive guys we have on the team, we're defense-first team and that's against whoever is on the ice."

But coach Paul Maurice cautioned that the margins were slim in the first three games, which reminded him of the Eastern Conference finals.

"It's like the Rangers series for us in some ways. After the third game, we could've been up three or down three. There are just too many good players with good opportunities to score that you can't say one team has a hold on this," he said. "We've got three [wins]. But from the bench, it's tight out there."

Center Anton Lundell doesn't expect the Oilers to go quietly.

"They're going to give everything they have, and we need to be able to give everything we have," he said. "It's going to be a great game tomorrow."

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