NHL: Bobrovsky, Panthers shut out Oilers in Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final

ByShawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl NHL.com Senior Director of Editorial

SUNRISE, Fla. -- It didn’t take long for Sergei Bobrovsky to put his stamp on the Stanley Cup Final.

The goalie made 32 saves for the Florida Panthers, who defeated the Edmonton Oilers 3-0 in Game 1 at Amerant Bank Arena on Saturday.

"We're happy with the win, and it's a very fun game,” Bobrovsky said. “We’ll reset, refocus and get ready for the next one."

Bobrovsky became the first goalie in 13 years to get a shutout in Game 1 of the Cup Final. Roberto Luongo, now in Florida’s front office, did it with the Vancouver Canucks in 2011.

“He was incredible tonight,” said forward Evan Rodrigues, who scored Florida’s second goal. “He did everything for us.”

Carter Verhaeghe and Eetu Luostarinen also scored, and Aleksander Barkov had two assists for the Panthers, the Eastern Conference champions. Florida took a series lead for the first time in three Final appearances.

Teams that win Game 1 of a best-of-7 Final hold an all-time series record of 64-20 (.762), including 51-10 (.836) when starting at home. Each of the past three Cup champions won Game 1 of the Final, including the Vegas Golden Knights, who defeated the Panthers last season in five games.

Game 2 will be here Monday (8 p.m. ET; ABC, ESPN+, SN, TVAS, CBC).

“It's just one [game],” Panthers forward Matthew Tkachuk said. “Obviously, you really want to take care of the first one, especially on home ice. Now, just looking forward to Game 2, but I guess it feels good.

“They played well. We played well enough to win, just really grinded it out, played really well defensively.”

Stuart Skinner made 15 saves for the Oilers, the Western Conference champions. Edmonton is in its first Final since 2006, when it lost to the Carolina Hurricanes in seven games.

“Even though we let in the first one, I think that our team played another full 60 (minutes),” Skinner said. “We were amazing for the whole game. We really pushed. ‘Bob’ was absolutely massive for them and a big reason why they were able to win.”

Verhaeghe made it 1-0 on Florida’s first shot of the game at 3:59 of the first period. The forward shoveled a backhand pass from Barkov into the net on a 3-on-2.

Verhaeghe has 10 goals in these Stanley Cup Playoffs, one shy of the Panthers record for a postseason, set by Tkachuk last season. Thirteen of Verhaeghe’s 25 playoff goals have given Florida the lead.

“He’s such a unique player where he’s so dangerous when the puck’s on his stick,” Rodrigues said. “You give him an inch and it’s in the back of the net. He’s got elite speed, and in the playoffs, he elevates his game because he gets to the middle of the ice, he wants the puck on his stick, and he has an elite shot.”

Rodrigues made it 2-0 at 2:16 of the second period with a one-timer from the right hash marks, and Luostarinen scored into an empty net with five seconds remaining in the third period for the 3-0 final.

Bobrovsky made six saves on Edmonton forward Connor McDavid, who was playing his first Final game. The highlight of those saves came at 4:31 of the third, when Bobrovsky got over to the right post to stop McDavid’s one-timer from the bottom of the left face-off circle off Leon Draisaitl’s cross-ice pass.

McDavid leads the playoffs with 31 points (five goals, 26 assists) in 19 games but was held without a point Saturday for the first time in five games.

The Nos. 2 and 3 scorers in the postseason were also dominant but stymied. Draisaitl, who has 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists) in 19 games, had four shots on goal, as did Edmonton defenseman Evan Bouchard, who has 27 points (six goals, 21 assists) in 19 games.

Edmonton’s vaunted power play, which had 19 goals in the first 18 games of the postseason, had chances but went 0-for-3.

“I thought we had looks, that’s the key,” said Oilers forward Zach Hyman, who had three shots on goal. “You continue to get high-quality looks, you continue to stick with your process. If we play like we did today, we’re very confident in our group.

“I didn’t like the result, obviously, but I thought we were able to skate, and the key to our game is skating and forechecking and getting pucks in the O-zone and making plays. I thought for lots of parts of that game we were the team that was pushing. We didn’t come out on top today.”

NOTES: Bobrovsky (35 years, 262 days) is the first goaltender to win a game in the Final at age 35 or older since Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils in 2012. He is the oldest goalie to open a Final with a shutout, surpassing Patrick Roy (35 years, 233 days for the Colorado Avalanche in 2001). … Brandon Montour assisted on Rodrigues’ goal, giving him 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 18 games in these playoffs and making him the only Panthers defenseman to have double-digit points in multiple postseasons. He had 13 points (eight goals, five assists) in 21 playoff games last season. … Nine of the past 11 opening games in the Final have been won by the home team.


 

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