NHL: Oilers eye history, Panthers try to avoid infamy in Game 7 of finals

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The thrill of victory and agony of defeat at stake in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final are next-level.

The routes both the Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers have taken to reach the winner-take-all clash will take that emotion off the charts.

The Panthers play host the Oilers on Monday night in Sunrise, Fla., on the heels of blowing a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven championship series.

Only once in finals history has a team failed to close out the series when up 3-0, the 1942 Detroit Red Wings, who lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Conversely, the Oilers are not only looking to cap an incredible comeback in the same manner as those Maple Leafs, but they also risk becoming the second team in NHL history to erase a three-game deficit only to lose the finals in Game 7. (Coincidentally, it was the 1945 Red Wings who took that path and ended up losing to Toronto, again.)

The pressure is huge. Or is it?

“Game 7, at home, how could you not be so jacked up?” Florida forward Matthew Tkachuk said. “This is an absolutely incredible, incredible opportunity. So, yes, you want to recognize or remember some of the good things that helped you beat these guys earlier in the series, but I’m trying to forget all of it. Just go in there and win one game. This is what it comes down to.”

It sounds simple, but the Panthers have failed three consecutive times to close out a series they appeared to have complete control of, and have done so in stunning fashion. Starting with an 8-1 victory in Game 4, the Oilers have outscored the Panthers 18-5 in the past three outings. Florida has not held a lead in any of those defeats.

Suffering a reverse-sweep loss with a shot at winning the first Cup in franchise history would be a painful experience on its own, but doing it in such inglorious fashion would be crushing.

The key for the Panthers will be not allowing the negative thoughts to paralyze their game.

“Game 6, there are a lot of options in your mind. Game 7, it’s one game and you just have to prepare yourself,” Florida forward Vladimir Tarasenko said.

“We still have another chance to win a Cup. You have to fix what you have to fix and come in with a positive mindset and believe in the guy next to you. This maybe sounds pretty simple, but it is what it is.”

The home team boasts a 12-5 record all-time in Game 7 of the finals but the road team has won the last three games.

The Oilers are well aware they have the opportunity to make history by earning the franchise’s first Cup since 1990.

“We’re all human and we’re aware of what we’ve accomplished so far, but if you go past that, it comes down to one game,” forward Leon Draisaitl said. “We have to focus on winning one hockey game on the road and play our best. Everything else, all the stories, will take care of itself after.”

That said, Edmonton’s skaters must not get ahead of themselves by thinking they are a runaway train that cannot be stopped.

“You’ve got to prepare just like you always do,” captain Connor McDavid said. “It’s not your ordinary game, everybody understands that, but you’ve got to make it as ordinary as possible in your head, and part of that is just sticking to your routine. Our room has done a great job of being at our best in big moments and I would not expect anything different.”

–Field Level Media

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