Hockey

Rodrigues scores twice as Panthers beat Oilers for 2-0 series lead in Stanley Cup final

Evan Rodrigues scored twice in the third period as the Florida Panthers beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-1 to take a 2-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup final on Monday night in Sunrise, Fla.

Games 3 and 4 are set for Thursday and Saturday in Edmonton

A male ice hockey player yells in celebration on the ice during a game as teammates skate toward him.
Panthers forward Evan Rodrigues celebrates his go-ahead goal against the Oilers during the third period in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final on Monday night at Amerant Bank Arena in Sunrise, Fla. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Connor McDavid and his Oilers have faced adversity all season.

They started the schedule an ugly 2-9-1. They trailed the Vancouver Canucks three times in the second round of the playoffs. They fell behind the Dallas Stars before claiming the Western Conference crown.

Florida, however, is a different animal — and Edmonton has a deep hole to climb out of after heading north.

Evan Rodrigues scored twice in the third period as the Panthers downed the Oilers 4-1 on Monday to take a 2-0 lead in the Stanley Cup final.

"We gotta be better," said McDavid, who assisted on Mattias Ekholm's goal that gave Edmonton a 1-0 lead. "They went up a level and we didn't match it."

WATCH l Rodrigues leads Panthers past Oilers in Game 2:

Rodrigues pots a pair of goals, Panthers claim Game 2 over Oilers

12 days ago
Duration 1:47
Evan Rodrigues scored twice as Florida handed Edmonton a 4-1 Game 2 loss in Sunrise Monday. The Panthers now lead the series 2-0.

The Oilers, who have scored just once in the series after being blanked 3-0 in Game 1 when Florida goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky grabbed the headlines, will need a massive push against the stout, suffocating Panthers to become just the sixth team in NHL history to hoist hockey's holy grail after going down 0-2 in a best-of-seven final.

"It's another opportunity for our group to come together and dig our way out," McDavid said. "It's supposed to be hard, it's supposed to be difficult.

"I'm excited to see what our group's made of."

Niko Mikkola and Aaron Ekblad, into an empty net, also scored for Florida. Bobrovsky made 18 saves after stopping 32 shots in the opener. Anton Lundell had two assists.

"We just try to play the same game," Panthers winger Matthew Tkachuk said. "Just play really hard, play in your face, keep the gaps good, play simple, move your feet, get some hits."

Stuart Skinner stopped 25 shots for Edmonton, which hosts Game 3 on Thursday.

"It's not ideal," Oilers forward Zach Hyman said. "We've got to take care of business at home."

Rodrigues snapped a 1-1 tie at 3:11 of the third when he ripped his fifth goal of the playoffs — and second of the series — on a shot that nicked Ekholm in front after defence partner Evan Bouchard put the puck right on the winger's stick.

Edmonton centre Leon Draisaitl was whistled for roughing on Florida captain Aleksander Barkov, who did not return, midway through the period, and the Panthers' struggling power play finally broke through on the Oilers after 34 straight kills going all the way back to the Vancouver series.

Bouchard's tough night continued when he got beat along the boards and Lundell fed a pass into the slot that Rodrigues redirected at 12:26.

"It's special," Rodrigues said. "Trying to embrace it. Trying to stay in the moment."

McDavid had a breakaway with Edmonton and Florida playing 4-on-4 with under six minutes to go in regulation, but Bobrovsky made the save.

Ekblad iced it with his first of the post-season into the empty net with 2:28 left in regulation before fans at Amerant Bank Arena chanted "We Want the Cup!" as the clock wound down.

"They're doing a good job defending," Draisaitl said. "But we can do a better job of creating offence and being harder on pucks."

Florida is now a pair of wins from its first championship after losing out in the 1996 final and again last spring.

"I thought it was a continuation of our third period from Game 1," Panthers head coach Paul Maurice said of the defensive performance. "The effort was outstanding."

WATCH l Bobrovsky posts 3rd career playoff shutout as Panthers top Oilers in Game 1:

Panthers' Sergei Bobrovsky shuts out Oilers in Game 1 of Stanley Cup final

14 days ago
Duration 1:36
Sergei Bobrovsky made 32 saves for his third career shutout in the playoffs. Panthers lead the Oilers 1-0 in the Stanley Cup final.

Edmonton forward Warren Foegele was assessed a major penalty and a game misconduct for kneeing Panthers centre Eetu Luostarinen at 9:21 of the opening period. Florida defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson was then whistled for tripping.

With the teams playing 4-on-4, Ekholm took a pass from McDavid and fired Edmonton's first shot through Bobrovsky's five-hole for the Oilers' first goal of the series at 11:17.

Panthers defenceman Brandon Montour hit the crossbar on the next shift.

The Oilers doused the rest of Foegele's major and a Bouchard penalty that stretched from the first to second period to make it 33 straight kills.

Nurse hurt in 1st period

The Oilers lost Darnell Nurse (undisclosed injury) midway through the first after he took a hit from Rodrigues. The defenceman went out for a couple of shifts the rest of the night, but was largely unavailable.

Florida evened things 1-1 at 9:34 of the second when Mikkola fired past Skinner's glove for his second.

Bouchard hit one off the post on a power play and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins rang a puck off the crossbar shortly after the infraction expired.

Bouchard took another penalty toward the end of the period, but Edmonton's kill once again did its job — including a big stop from Skinner on Sam Bennett — to tie the 2001 St. Louis Blues for the third-longest streak in one playoff.

Rodrigues, however, would end that run in the third with his second of the night to send the Oilers home from South Florida in desperation mode.

"I'm excited to see our group come together," McDavid said. "I'm excited to see us fight through adversity and looking forward to people doubting us again.

"We're good with our backs against the wall."

That's exactly where Edmonton stands two games into the final.

With files from The Associated Press

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