Panthers get 3rd chance to win Stanley Cup before frenzied Edmonton crowd

Florida led the series versus Edmonton 3-0 before losing back-to-back games
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Edmonton Oilers right wing Corey Perry (90) moves the puck away from Florida Panthers left wing Matthew Tkachuk (19) during the first period of Game 5 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals, Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

The Stanley Cup will be in the building once again on Friday night with the Florida Panthers getting their third chance to win the first championship in franchise history in Game 6 against the Edmonton Oilers.

The Panthers led the series 3-0 before losing back-to-back games.

“There’s no way necessarily to prepare for that new experience,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said Thursday in Fort Lauderdale before traveling back to Alberta. “Now, we’ve got kind of two games under our belt … so we’re learning. We’re learning how to do this. We’re learning how to feel it.”

To close out the series and finally be atop the NHL, Florida will have to deal with Connor McDavid likely cruising to playoff MVP honors and a raucous sellout crowd of over 18,000 fans hoping to see their team force a Game 7 in South Florida on Monday night. Oilers fever is alive and well in the city of nearly a million people trying to will the their team back across North America.

“It’s been incredible to witness,” said veteran winger Corey Perry, who is in the final for the fourth time in five seasons. “Everybody notices it. You can hear them honking the horns when we’re in our dressing room. You can hear everything. It’s pretty special, pretty tremendous to be here and going through that.”

They are back in Edmonton thanks in large part to McDavid, Edmonton’s captain who had four points apiece in Games 4 and 5. He is the first player in league history with consecutive four-point games in the final, and his 42 are five shy of Wayne Gretzky’s record set in 1985.

“Connor doing Connor things,” linemate Zach Hyman said. “That’s what makes him special. He’s able to elevate his game at the most important time — the biggest reason why we’ve come so far. We’re not here without him. He continues to drive the bus.”

Matthew Tkachuk drove it for the Panthers in Game 5, the second-best player on the ice behind McDavid with a long gap to who might have been third. Tkachuk scored a goal and assisted on another, sparking a comeback bid that fell just short despite his diving save to keep the puck out of an empty net in the final minute.

“He’s one of the best players in the world,” teammate Ryan Lomberg said. “He’s one of our main leaders. When guys like that lead by example, everybody else is well on board.”

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