Panthers have only 2 wins left within the Stanley Cup after 4-1 win against Oilers

By TIM REYNOLDS (AP Sports Writer)

SUNRISE, Fla. – Edmonton's Leon Draisaitl knocked Florida's Aleksander Barkov out of the sport. The Panthers responded with the harder hit.

And the Stanley Cup Final took a heated activate Monday night.

Evan Rodrigues scored twice within the third period, Niko Mikkola and Aaron Ekblad also scored, and the Panthers used one other sure kick to tug away and beat the Oilers 4-1, taking a 2-0 lead within the Stanley Cup Final.

Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 18 shots for Florida, which had an overall record of 1-8 in Cup finals before this series began – and is now just two wins away from its first championship title. Score after two games: Florida 7, Edmonton 1.

“A job for six men against the best players in the world,” said Ekblad.

But the victory got here at a price for Florida, since the Panthers lose captain Barkov when Edmonton forward Draisaitl jumped at him midway through the third period and hit him in the top. Barkov remained on the bottom for a while, needed help attending to the bench, and went down the tunnel to the Florida dressing room for further evaluation.

Florida coach Paul Maurice gave no update on Barkov's condition and was noticeably more silent than he often is after victories.

“This isn't the Oprah Winfrey Show,” Maurice said of the Barkov hit. “My feelings don't matter.”

Mattias Ekholm scored and Stuart Skinner saved 25 shots for the Oilers, who now must face a difficult past.

Edmonton has only overcome a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series once – against San Jose in Round 2 of the 2006 playoffs. And teams that began the Stanley Cup Final trailing 2-0 have only won five times in 54 previous situations.

“I think we feel like we came here and played well enough to get a tie,” Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch said. “That doesn't always happen.”

The series continues on Thursday night with Game 3 in Edmonton.

“We can certainly be better,” said Draisaitl. “It starts with me. … I certainly have a lot more to give. I wasn't at my best tonight. I have to admit that, of course.”

Draisaitl received only a minor penalty for his tough stance on the hit that knocked Barkov out of the sport. Rodrigues scored a tip-in goal to make it 3-1. It was the primary power play goal that Edmonton has allowed within the last 34 shorthanded games.

Connor McDavid had a likelihood to bring Edmonton inside one goal with about 6 minutes left. He was stopped by Bobrovsky after which he and Matthew Tkachuk After the sport, there was a small scuffle on the boards – the Panthers were still furious concerning the hit against Barkov.

“I have no answer or comment on that,” Tkachuk said when asked what he considered Draisaitl's hit on Barkov and whether he had any level of concern about Florida's captain being out.

McDavid said of the hit: “I thought it was part of the game.”

And Ekblad added: “We hope he is well.”

Emotions ran high all night. Edmonton's Warren Foegele was sent off in the primary period for a knee-to-knee hit that briefly knocked Florida's Eetu Luostarinen out of the sport. That sending off, together with an injury to Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse, left them with just 11 forwards and five defensemen for a lot of the game.

Rodrigues scored on a turnover early within the third period to make it 2-1, setting the tone for an additional Florida comeback. The Panthers — who trailed 1-0 after 20 minutes — at the moment are an NHL-record 5-2 from a deficit in these playoffs.

Ekblad sealed the take care of a goal into the empty net with 2:28 minutes left.

“It's supposed to be hard. It's supposed to be difficult,” McDavid said. “I'm excited to see what our group can do.”

As in Game 1, one team was successful on its first try. On Saturday it was Florida, and this time Edmonton.

There was not much happening: Ekholm ran almost all the ice surface, the teams played 4 against 4, a harmless looking shot that went between Bobrovsky's pads and squirted into the online. McDavid – who played within the constructing where he was drafted in 2015 – had certainly one of the assists on the goal, his twenty seventh assist of the postseason.

The Panthers tied the sport midway through the second period. Mikkola had two shots in a row; one went on the unsuitable goal and the opposite greater than made up for the near miss.

Just moments after inadvertently directing a backhander toward Bobrovsky – who was alert enough to save lots of his teammate from the embarrassment of an own goal – Mikkola took a pass from Anton Lundell and fired the ball past Skinner to tie the sport at 1-1 for Florida.

“Bob was awake,” said Mikkola.

After 40 minutes, Florida's shot percentage was 22-7, and the Oilers – who led the league in shots on goal this season – were held to a season low within the third period. Bobrovsky was challenged way more within the third period than he had been in the primary two periods, but again rose to the occasion, allowing two or fewer goals for the twelfth time in his last 13 games.

And Florida is 2 wins away from the Cup for the primary time.

“It's special,” Rodrigues said. “We're trying to embrace it. We're trying to stay in the moment. These are two big wins for our team, but I think we've already closed the chapter and are getting ready for Game 3.”

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