Panthers hold off late Oilers rally to edge closer to franchise’s first Stanley Cup title

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Edmonton Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch looks on during Game 3 against the Florida Panthers, in Edmonton, on June 13.
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The Oilers are in a precarious position, one game shy of being ousted from the Stanley Cup final. The Panthers delivered a crushing blow to their hopes on Thursday with a 4-3 triumph at Rogers Place.

With a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, Florida is within reach of claiming its inaugural Stanley Cup since joining the NHL in 1993.

The game shifted in favor of the Panthers with three quick goals in just over six minutes during the second period. Sergei Bobrovsky shined once more with 32 saves. Edmonton staged a late rally from a 4-1 deficit with two goals, but it wasn’t enough.

It’s been almost three decades since a Canadian team hoisted the Stanley Cup, with the possibility of that dry spell extending. Only one team, the Maple Leafs in 1942, has managed to clinch the cup after falling behind 0-3.

Game 3 marked the Oilers’ first home game in the Stanley Cup final in 18 years, following their seven-game loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. Despite winning five Stanley Cups, the Oilers haven’t claimed the title since 1990.

Around 7,500 fans enjoyed a pre-game concert by the band Our Lady Peace adjacent to the venue, while country star Shania Twain is set to perform on Saturday.

Across the street, 4,500 more fans crowded into the Ice District Plaza for a lively tailgate party, known as the Moss Pit in honor of Joey Moss, the late locker room attendant of the Oilers.

Amidst the buzz, Junior and Zena Nickerson from Cape Sable Island, N.S., posed for photos near a statue of Wayne Gretzky, showing support for the Oilers despite being Maple Leafs fans. Junior, usually occupied with lobster fishing in winter, attended his first live NHL game.

As anticipation peaked, fans donning Oilers gear flooded the streets, creating a vibrant atmosphere. Notable attendees included Canadian soccer star Alphonso Davies and former Oilers player Georges Laraque.

The Panthers arrived within 24 hours of the game due to weather delays, yet displayed no signs of fatigue. They dominated the first two games on home turf, limiting Edmonton’s potent power play.

Top Oilers players Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have struggled to score, managing only three assists collectively.

Despite the challenging situation, the Oilers hoped to draw energy from their enthusiastic fan base. The team’s strong home record during the regular season and playoffs was a source of optimism.

The Oilers fought hard during the game but fell short, with the Panthers asserting their dominance. With one victory away from claiming the Stanley Cup, Florida is in the driver’s seat.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article erroneously stated the last Canadian Stanley Cup win as 2004, when it should have been 1993.

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