Stanley Cup Final: Panthers hold off Oilers comeback to take 3-0 series lead

The Florida Panthers are one win from their first Stanley Cup title, but the Edmonton Oilers can at least say they at least made this loss too close for comfort.

In the span of a little more than six minutes, the Panthers ripped off three straight goals to turn a tie game into a laugher in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final. However, that laugher turned back into a game in the final minutes, when the Oilers scored twice to cut the deficit to one.

That was all they got, though, and the Panthers finished the game with a 4-3 win and a 3-0 series lead.

Only four teams have ever come back from down 3-0 in an NHL series, the most recent being the 2013-14 Los Angeles Kings. It has happened only once in the Stanley Cup Final, when the Toronto Maple Leafs stunned the Detroit Wings in 1942.

EDMONTON, CANADA - JUNE 13: Sam Bennett #9 and Matthew Tkachuk #19 of the Florida Panthers celebrate after Bennett's goal against the Edmonton Oilers during the second period of Game Three of the 2024 Stanley Cup Final at Rogers Place on June 13, 2024 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
The Florida Panthers looked unstoppable until the third period. They still have a 3-0 Stanley Cup Final lead. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) (Harry How via Getty Images)

Game 4 is scheduled for Saturday at 8 p.m. ET in Edmonton (ABC). A Florida win would mean the first Stanley Cup Final sweep since 1998 (Detroit Red Wings over Washington Capitals).

The Panthers drew first blood in the first period when a scrum led to matching minor penalties for roughing and a 4-on-4, in which Sam Reinhart scored via assists from Gustav Forsling and Aleksander Barkov. The Oilers equalized early in the second with a breakaway goal by Warren Foegele, but that would be the end of optimism in Edmonton.

First, Eetu Luostarinen intercepted a lazy puck from Oilers goalie Stuart Skinner and caught him out of position with a pass to Vladimir Tarasenko, who took advantage of the wide-open net.

The Oilers defense started to decay from there, and the Panthers punished them for it. Next came Sam Bennett getting behind the Edmonton defense for a goal, then Barkov winning a 2-on-1:

The Oilers got two back from Philip Broberg and Ryan McLeod, but needed one more to avoid needing an even bigger comeback for the series.

Until several minutes into the third period, the Oilers' star-powered offense had been completely snuffed out by the Panthers' NHL-best defense, even though they had registered more shots, shots on goal and power plays. Their defensive miscues were basically academic, because barely anything has gotten past Florida goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who still stands as the Conn Smythe favorite.

None of the Oilers' top five point scorers from the regular season — Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Zach Hyman, Evan Bouchard and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins — have even scored a goal in this series.

Getting the deficit down to one goal might be encouraging, but the Oilers now face dire odds. They're not alone in that this week.

The Oilers suffered plenty Thursday, but the other loser of the night was ABC and its parent company at Disney.

The network is currently airing both the NBA Finals and Stanley Cup Final, which are each on the verge of an uncompetitive sweep. The Boston Celtics lead the Dallas Mavericks 3-0 after taking a big lead and holding off a comeback in Game 3 (sound familiar?), with a chance to end it in Game 4 on Friday.

Yahoo Sports' Kendall Baker notes that the two series have both ended in sweeps only twice in history: 1983 (Philadelphia 76ers over Los Angeles Lakers, New York Islanders over Oilers) and 1995 (Houston Rockets over Orlando Magic, New Jersey Devils over Red Wings).

Game 1: Panthers 3, Oilers 0
Game 2: Panthers 4, Oilers 1
Game 3: Panthers 4, Oilers 3
Game 4: Panthers at Oilers | Saturday, June 15, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+)
*Game 5: Oilers at Panthers | Tuesday, June 18, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+)
*Game 6: Panthers at Oilers | Friday, June 21, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+)
*Game 7: Oilers at Panthers | Monday, June 24, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+)

(*if necessary)

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