Champions! Panthers capture team's first Stanley Cup with Game 7 win over Oilers.

Adam Lichtenstein, South Florida Sun Sentinel on

Published in Hockey

SUNRISE, Fla. — In 1996, the Panthers introduced South Florida to the “rat trick” during their first Stanley Cup Final run. In 2023, Florida showed off a new generation of stars like Aleksander Barkov, Matthew Tkachuk and Carter Verhaeghe before losing to Vegas in the Final.

But 2024 is when the Panthers reached the summit of the hockey world, lifting the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history.

They needed to get past rival Tampa Bay, which held its three Stanley Cup titles over their little brothers’ heads for years. They needed to beat Boston and New York, whose fans frequently filled the arena in Sunrise during the Panthers’ darkest doldrums of mediocrity.

Finally, they needed to beat Edmonton, the former home of the greatest player in the sport’s history and the current home of the sport’s best player. Despite losing three straight games to send the series to a nerve-wracking Game 7, the Panthers clinched their first title with a 2-1 win. It’s the first title for a South Florida professional team since the Heat won the NBA title in 2013.

After starting slowly in the previous three games, the Panthers got off to a strong start in Game 7. Verhaeghe made Amerant Bank Arena erupt, scoring the game’s opening goal 4:27 into the first period. It was the first time Florida scored first since Game 3.


But the lead was short-lived, as Mattias Janmark — who earlier in the period had his helmet knocked off on a check by Barkov — got a breakaway shot past Sergei Bobrovsky to knot the game at one.

After defenseman Dmitry Kulikov shoved a loose puck out of Florida’s crease, Sam Reinhart — the Panthers’ leading goal-scorer and impending free agent — sniped a wrist shot from the point past Stuart Skinner, sending the arena into delirium with 4:49 remaining in a tense second period.

Bobrovsky had struggled in the Panthers’ three losses in the series, even getting taken out of the blowout in Game 4. But he returned to form just in time for Game 7, saving all but one shot that came his way and helping clinch the franchise’s first title.

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