Oilers simply not good enough so far in Cup Final: ‘We’ve got to be better’

Evan Rodrigues scored a pair of goals and Sergei Bobrovsky had another terrific outing with 18 saves as the Florida Panthers topped the Edmonton Oilers 4-1 to take a 2-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Final.

SUNRISE, Fla. — The mighty Edmonton Oilers blew into South Florida, made landfall, and then petered out.

On hockey’s biggest stage, the Oilers managed just one goal in two games here, and now trail the Florida Panthers 2-0 in this Stanley Cup Final. They’ll face a must-win game back home Thursday night after a 4-1 loss Monday.

“We’ve got to get better. We can do better, for sure,” said Oilers captain Connor McDavid. “I thought they went up a level and we didn’t match it today.”

Oilers forwards mustered just six shots on goal in Game 2, and the only goal Edmonton has scored in this series came from defenceman Mattias Ekholm. He opened the scoring on Monday, and Florida scored the next four goals.

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Meanwhile, not a single one of Edmonton’s forwards has scored on Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky in six periods of this Final, while McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have combined for just a paltry assist.

“I can only speak for myself. I certainly have a lot more to give,” said Draisaitl, who was ineffective in Game 2, and showed his frustration with a late, high charge on Panthers centre Sasha Barkov. “Not my best tonight (and I’m) owning that. We’ll regroup and make sure it’ll be better in Game 3.”

All the things that make Edmonton the feared offensive machine that scored its way into this Final were somehow lost in transit, like that suitcase that failed to make its connector in Denver.

The power play is 0-for-7 and hit three posts when the score was still 1-1. It simply failed to deliver, and has not been the advantage in this series that it has been throughout the Oilers’ playoff journey.

Edmonton had just 19 shots on net Monday and only 26 in the last four periods of this series. After coming out hot and getting goalied by Bobrovsky in the opening 40 minutes of Game 1, the Panthers have dictated how the last four periods have been played.

“They controlled the pace of the game more so than we did,” said Oilers forward Zach Hyman, who has 68 goals this season but awaits his first in this series. “They played better than we did. We didn’t have as many looks (as in Game 1). We weren’t playing with enough pace, they were controlling the play for the majority of the game.

“You’ve got to find a way to score.”

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Adding insult to injury, Draisaitl took an uncharacteristic, less-than-smart penalty on Barkov in the third period that opened the door for the power-play goal that gave Florida a 3-1 lead. Before that, Evan Bouchard made the fatal giveaway on the 2-1 goal, giving the Panthers the momentum early in the final period.

That’s two of Edmonton’s best players, being anything but.

“We can certainly be better. It starts with me,” Draisaitl said. “There’s certainly a lot more to give.”

The moral of the story so far? Edmonton’s best players haven’t been their best players, a recipe to finish as a runner-up in this first visit to the Final in 18 years for the Oilers.

Where is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? Where is Bouchard? Where is the power play that changes games and wins series’?

“I think our best players have been pretty good,” said Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch. “We hit three goal posts on the power play, we’re probably talking about how good our top players were (if those go in). Yeah, we’d like some more goals, but I’m not calling … I think our top guys have been very good.”

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Sorry, Kris.

In this series, “good” will be defined as some combination of ‘better than Bobrovsky’ and ‘having the ability to fight through the defensive blanket put down by Florida.’

None of the Oilers have been good — or good enough — by those standards.

“They just check,” said Knoblauch. “They mark their man and play the body. They’re a tenacious group and they make it tough to get any space out there.”

As the teams charter up to Edmonton on Tuesday, there is no question that Florida has been the better club. Edmonton played well enough to win Game 1, but Bobrovsky had the final say.

Now they’ll bring their shovels to work for Game 3 at Rogers Place, with a big hole to dig themselves out of.

“We feel we came here and we played well enough to get a split. That doesn’t always happen,” Knoblauch said. “I don’t see any reason to panic or do anything drastic. If we win one of these, which I think we were capable of doing, we’re really happy.

“I don’t want to get too caught up in ‘we’re down 2-0 and we’re in a whole lot of trouble.’ We just have to win the next game.’’

OIL SPILLS: Darnell Nurse appeared to suffer a hip injury in the first period, and played only three shifts the rest of the game. “He’s getting looked at right now,” Knoblauch said, post-game. … Warren Foegele got tossed for a kneeing major on his third shift of the game. He played just 1:54. … Evander Kane continues to labour. He played 10:33 and was minus-3. He has one assist in his past nine games. It’s likely time to sit him down.

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