Florida Panthers want to keep going full throttle after opening win in NHL Stanley Cup final | News, Sports, Jobs

Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner skates back to his position during the second period against the Florida Panthers in Game 1 of the NHL Stanley Cup Final on Saturday in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo).

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — After taking a 1-0 lead in Round 1 against Tampa Bay, the Florida Panthers said they had to get better. After falling behind 1-0 in Round 2 against Boston, they said it again. After taking a 1-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals against the New York Rangers, they said the same thing.

And even today, as we lead 1-0 against the Edmonton Oilers before Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, nothing has changed.

There will be no resting, the Panthers – who won the Cup opener 3-0 – emphasized on Sunday. No change of approach, no sense of accomplishment, nothing but trying to be even sharper in Game 2 against an Oilers team that outscored them by a wide margin in Game 1 and rarely gets stopped offensively in consecutive games.

“The most important thing is what you can learn from the game,” Said Panthers coach Paul Maurice. “Where can you improve? You should temper all of that when you sit down and watch your video, because the other team is getting paid too. There are some pretty good players there.”

The players there – led by Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl – liked a lot of what they brought to Game 1.

They just couldn't beat Florida goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who is currently in top form. He has a 1.24 goals-against average and .953 save percentage in his last four games, and he has allowed two goals or less in 11 of his last 12 games.

The video confirmed what the Oilers knew: They had created great chances in Game 1.

“There is no panic in our room at the moment,” Said Oilers forward Connor Brown.

And for good reason. It doesn't take a genius to see that Edmonton will be showing some determination tonight, not only because they lost the first game of a Cup final, but also because they haven't conceded a goal. The Oilers are 3-0-0 this season in games immediately following a clean sheet loss, and have scored 19-8 more points than other teams in those games. If you include last year, they are 5-0-0 with a 29-14 point differential after a clean sheet.

And so far, Edmonton has come back from a slump in these playoffs. The Oilers are 5-1 after a loss this postseason and have outscored the other teams 26-14 in those games.

“I think that has been one of our great strengths throughout the season, our ability to recover, sometimes even from game to game,” Said Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. “Of course, you'll go through difficult phases during the season and it all depends on how you react to them. We even managed that in the playoffs. So we should take that confidence with us.”

If all those numbers aren't impressive enough, try this: The Oilers have scored a goal or less 13 times this season, including Saturday night. In the game following such an outing, the Oilers average 4.9 goals – 6.0 goals in their last eight such games.

In short, some goals will almost certainly come from the West champions. But while the Panthers would do well to prepare for that, so too are the Oilers who say they expect more from their opponent in Game 2, too.

“I don't think they played their best game in this game. They will simply be better,” Said Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch. “Looking at how well they've played in these playoffs, I think we're going to see more of them.”

There's no trophy being awarded tonight, but everyone knows it's an important game, and everyone knows what's at stake. In the expansion era, 32 of the 35 teams that opened the title series with wins in Game 1 and Game 2 have won the trophy.

Florida gains total control with a win. Edmonton gains home court advantage with a win. How tonight goes could very easily shape the rest of the season.

“We know we have to be better than yesterday and we have to keep building because Edmonton is an incredible team,” Said Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov. “They have so much skill in their lineup. It's going to be tough.”

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