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The Florida Panthers capture their first Stanley Cup with 2-1 win in Game 7

While they almost did the impossible (for sports besides hockey, anyway), the Edmonton Oilers failed to complete the reverse sweep and overcome a 3-0 series deficit to capture the Stanley Cup.

That’s the negative way of looking at how Game 7 of the 2024 Stanley Cup Final finished at Amerant Bank Arena in Sunrise, Florida, on Monday night. The cup half-full way is to say that the Florida Panthers woke up from their slumber just in time to prevent Edmonton from winning four straight. By doing so, they won their first Cup since becoming an NHL franchise way back in 1993.

Speaking of 1993, that was the last time a Canadian-based NHL franchise won a Stanley Cup. As for the Oilers, they hadn’t won one since 1990. Unfortunately, the streak will continue for another season.

However, as a consolation, Connor McDavid, the consensus top hockey player on the planet, was named the winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded annually to the most valuable player of the postseason. McDavid led all players with 42 points during the postseason, which was the fourth-most in NHL history. He becomes the sixth player from the losing team to win the Conn Smythe.

Unfortunately, the Oilers needed just a few points more from McDavid, who was held scoreless over the final two games of the series.

As for Game 7, Carter Verhaeghe gave Florida a 1-0 lead with a goal late in the first period. Mattias Janmark countered with one of his own with 6:44 remaining in the second period to tie the game. Sam Reinhart scored the game-winner for the Panthers with 15:11 remaining in the third period.

After that, it was just a matter of holding off McDavid and an Oilers squad that had to figure it was a team of destiny after how well it played over the previous three games.

But Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who appeared to be the front-runner for the Conn Smythe before stumbling badly in Games 4 through 6, recaptured his mojo on Monday night, stopping 23 of 24 shots in the 2-1 victory. The veteran goalie who is 35, has won two Vezina Trophies over his accomplished career and is in line for a third, might have stamped his ticket to the Hockey Hall of Fame with his postseason performance as well as the first Stanley Cup of his NHL career that began with the Flyers in 2010.

The biggest story is the Panthers. They reached the Final last season before falling in five games to the Vegas Knights. Instead of succumbing to some sort of Stanley Cup hangover, Florida finished with 110 regular-season points in 2024 and was the best team throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Now, the Panthers will be known as the best team in the NHL.

As for the Sunshine State, it will now be home to the third Stanley Cup champion over the past five seasons, thanks to the Tampa Lightning going back-to-back in 2020 and 2021.

Man, Florida really is crazy. The state with all of the sun, heat and Disney; the home of Major League Baseball’s spring training Grapefruit League; the place that has an obsession with both high school and college football, is the new hockey mecca of the world.


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