Stanley Cup Finals: Bobrovsky makes 32 saves as Panthers empty Oilers in Game 1 | Stanley Cup

Sergei Bobrovsky returned the favor in the first shift. He lost his stick for 30 seconds at one point and still saved. Connor McDavid put six shots on net, none of which went in.

Bobrovsky got a masterclass against McDavid, and every other player who dared to test him jumped at the chance. As a result, the Florida Panthers play in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Everyone calls “Bob” unbeatable, stopping all 32 shots he faced in every situation and from every angle in one of the most memorable playoff goaltending performances in recent history. The Edmonton Oilers are up 3-0 on Saturday night in Game 1 of the NHL’s best-of-seven championship series.

“It’s fun to play with those guys, those elite guys, it’s a fun atmosphere,” Bobrowski said. “I live for the opportunity and enjoy every second of it.”

“Bobby! Bobby!” As Bobrovsky fended off multiple breakdowns and turned themselves back over and over again, McDavid was stopped when the reigning and three-time MVP went into turbo mode and flew around and out of the crease to turn Florida’s net into an impenetrable fortress.

Bobrovsky, a two-time Vezina Trophy winner, recorded his second shutout of this run through a regular-season game and third in the playoffs in his 14-year career. Thanks to him, the Panthers have advanced to the Cup final for the first time in team history and are now three wins away from hoisting hockey’s most sacred trophy for the first time.

It didn’t even matter that they were outshot 32-18. Coming off a five-game losing streak against Vegas a year ago in the Finals for the second straight season, Florida showed experience handling pressure and tense moments, like most of its players. Have been here before.

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“We know what’s going to happen this year,” Verhake said. “We know how challenging it is, the ups and downs of the playoffs and the grind of it. I think that makes us more armed this year.

Verhehe and Rodriguez’s goals came in the first five shots on net against Edmonton’s Stuart Skinner, who was left out to dry by a slow back check and a last race. Skinner, who has had ups and downs this postseason, appeared to be the biggest question to play in this series.

“A lot to like,” McDavid said. “We didn’t give up too much, (but) what we gave up was dangerous.”

Edmonton controlled most of the game at the 5, racked up penalties to 30, and did everything right except score on its power play. Despite everything, the Oilers are the underdogs in this pivotal group with their first ever Finals appearance in McDavid and Leon Tricite.

“We know we have to do better,” coach Chris Knoblach said. “There are things we have to look at and try to maximize those opportunities.”

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This is the longest series between teams meeting for the Cup, breaking the previous record set by Boston and Vancouver in 2011. The trophy was brought onto the ice before the puck drop, just as the league did four years ago by shining the spotlight on the empty stands in Edmonton when the playoffs took place in pandemic bubbles.

“Didn’t really expect it,” Rodriguez said of the Cup’s first NHL appearance on ice before the finals for the first time since the 1960s. “It was a little chill and a beautiful moment. It was a beautiful touch, I’m not going to lie.

It was a stark contrast to the more recent quiet display in 2020, when a screaming crowd of 19,543 fans took on a team from Florida in its fifth straight Finals appearance. While 20 playoff games have been played in Canada over the past 20 seasons, this is the 22nd in the Sunshine State during that time.

Another is set for Monday when these teams return for Game 2.

“It’s been a long streak,” Bobrowski said. “We’re going to reset, refocus and get ready for the next fight.”

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