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Bobrovsky makes 32 saves as the Panthers shut out the Oilers 3-0 in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final | National news

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Sergei Bobrovsky turned the puck over on the first shift and recovered. He lost his stick for 30 seconds at one point and still made saves. Connor McDavid put six shots on net, none of which went in.

Bobrovsky put on a masterclass against McDavid and every other player who dared to test him and his teammates jumped into action when given the opportunity. As a result, the Florida Panthers are off to the Stanley Cup Finals.

With the goalkeeper everyone simply calls ‘Bob’ unbeatable at stopping all 32 shots he faced from every angle and in every situation in one of the most memorable play-off goaltending performances in recent history and thanks to goals from Carter Verhaeghe and Evan Rodrigues, the Panthers defeated the Edmonton Oilers 3-0 on Saturday night in Game 1 of the NHL’s best-of-seven championship series.

“It’s fun playing against those guys, those elite guys and the atmosphere is fun,” Bobrovsky said. “I just live for this opportunity, and I love every second of it.”

Chants of “Bobby! Bobby!” repeated itself over and over as Bobrovsky turned aside multiple breakaways, holding off McDavid as the reigning and three-time MVP went into turbo mode, flying around and beyond the crease to turn Florida’s net into an impenetrable fortress.

Bobrovsky, a two-time Vezina Trophy winner for his stellar regular-season play, recorded his second shutout in the series and third in the playoffs during his 14-year career. Thanks to him, the Panthers have a Cup Final lead for the first time in franchise history and are now three wins away from lifting hockey’s hallowed trophy for the first time.

It didn’t even matter that they were outshot 32-18. Back in the finals for the second consecutive season and healthier and better prepared for the moment than in the five-game loss to Vegas a year ago, Florida showed that experience matters on this stage, joining most of its players to to deal with pressure and tense moments. have been here before.

“We know approximately what it will take this year,” Verhaeghe said. “We know how challenging it is, the ups and downs of playoffs and the grind of it. I think that makes us better equipped this year.”

Verhaeghe and Rodrigues’ goals came on the first five shots on net against Edmonton’s Stuart Skinner, who was sidelined by a slow backcheck and a losing race to the puck. Skinner, who has had his ups and downs this postseason and whose play seemed to be the biggest question in the series, couldn’t be blamed for either.

“There’s a lot to like,” McDavid said. “We didn’t give up too much, but what we did give up was dangerous.”

Edmonton controlled much of the game at 5-on-5, extended its streak of penalties killed to 30, and its power play did just about everything well except score. Despite all that, the Oilers are behind in this core group led by McDavid and Leon Draisaitl’s first appearance in the Finals.

“We know we’re going to have to get better,” coach Kris Knoblauch said. “There are things we need to look at and try to increase those opportunities.”

It is a series with the longest distance between teams meeting for the Cup, eclipsing the previous record set in 2011 by Boston and Vancouver. The trophy was brought onto the ice before the puck dropped, similar to what the league did by shining a spotlight on it in the empty stands in Edmonton four years ago when the playoffs were conducted in pandemic bubbles.

“I didn’t really expect that,” Rodrigues said of an NHL first of the Cup at the ice level before the final for the first time since the 1960s. “That was a bit of a chill and a pretty cool moment. It was a nice gesture, I’m not going to lie.”

This was the opposite of that more recent, eerily quiet scene from 2020, with a sold-out crowd of 19,543 screaming fans gearing up for a fifth straight final with a Florida team. While there have been 20 playoff games played in Canada over the past 20 seasons, this was the 22nd in the Sunshine State during that time.

Another is scheduled for Tuesday, when these teams return for Game 2.

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


AP NHL Playoffs: https://apnews.com/hub/stanley-cup and https://www.apnews.com/hub/NHL

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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