Panthers take an extra day before 2,500-mile trek to Canada, moving closer to first Cup Final trophy


As the Edmonton Oilers boarded their flight back to Alberta for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Tuesday, the Florida Panthers remained at home.

They’ll fly out of South Florida on Wednesday, which gives them an extra day’s rest before a six-plus hour flight 2,543 miles to the other side of the continent.

It helps that the NHL scheduled two days between Games 2 and 3, given this is the furthest distance between two teams in a final in NHL history.

The series resumes with Game 3 in Edmonton on Thursday.

“Just the function of the length of the flight and the travel I think it’s very smart that there’s two days off,” said Panthers coach Paul Maurice. “It makes it fair, and at the end of the day that’s surely what this should be. Both teams work so hard to get here, it should be a really even playing field with no real disadvantage in the logistics of how the series is run. So, there shouldn’t be two days for one team, but only one day for the other when they come back. This is right, it’s the way it should be.”

There’s plenty that the Panthers plan to do to keep themselves occupied on the way over: Sleep. Card games. Television. More sleep.

“I play poker,” said Panthers Matthew Tkachuk, who entered the league after being drafted with the sixth pick in 2016 by Canada’s Calgary Flames, who play nearly 200 miles south of Edmonton.

“I don’t know if I can play poker for six hours, to be honest. I’ll probably do poker, little bit of a fake nap, walk around, back to playing poker. It is a long flight. You only do it a couple times a year, so that part is going to be a little different this series, definitely.”

When they arrive in Canada, the Panthers will have momentum on their side thanks to the stellar performance of goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and a lockdown defense.

And the odds are in their favor.

Teams that hold a 2-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final are 49-5 all time. The likelihood of winning it all increases to .964% for teams that go up three games to none.

The availability of Florida captain Aleksander Barkov is in jeopardy, though, after he was knocked out of Game 2 midway through the third period following a hit from Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl.

Maurice said Barkov “wasn’t worse” on Tuesday but will be further assessed on Wednesday.


Edmonton’s power play, which converted at a postseason-best 37%, is 0 for 7 through two games of the final. Asked Tuesday what more needs to happen, coach Kris Knoblauch said, “Put the puck in the net.”

“We hit three goalposts,” Knoblauch said before flying home. “If those are a quarter of an inch to the inside, we’re probably talking about how our power play saved us and came through crucially. I’m not sure how much more we can do. Just sharpen up our shooting and be a little more accurate, I guess.”

The extra day gives the Oilers a chance to regroup in every facet, and they’ll be on the ice in Edmonton roughly when the Panthers are flying.

“We’ll have practice day tomorrow to work on those things,” Knoblauch said. “There will be a lot of conversations with the coaching staff, management to understand what they see and anything we can improve on.”


AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno contributed.


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