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Florida Panthers pull away in third period to defeat Edmonton Oilers, take commanding 2-0 lead in Stanley Cup Final

By Homero De la Fuente, CNN

(CNN) — Evan Rodrigues scored twice in the third period, and the Florida Panthers scored four unanswered goals to defeat the Edmonton Oilers 4-1 in the NHL Stanley Cup Final Monday to take a commanding 2-0 lead at Amerant Bank Arena in Sunrise, Florida.

“It’s special. Trying to embrace it,” said Rodrigues postgame. “Trying to stay in the moment. It’s two big wins for our team, and I think we’ve already turned the page and we’re getting ready for Game 3.”

The Oilers got on the board first, on their first shot attempt, midway through the opening period. Oilers superstar Connor McDavid made a timely pass to Mattias Ekholm, who skated past the defenders and buried the wrister five-hole on Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovksy for the goal.

In Game 1 of the series the Oilers failed to net a goal despite outshooting the Panthers 32-18. On Monday, the roles were somewhat reversed with the Panthers outshooting the Oilers, 22-7 through the first two periods.

Shot attempt after shot attempt, the Panthers struggled to get past Oilers goalie Stuart Skinner. Niko Mikkola, however, found his moment of glory in the second period as he snapped a one-timer in on Skinner’s glove side to tie the game 1-1. The Panthers troubles of finding the back of the net disappeared from that point on.

Rodrigues gave the Panthers the 2-1 lead a little over three minutes into the third period, taking advantage of a costly Evan Bouchard turnover and wiring in the shot that deflected off of Ekholm and into the back of the net.

Rodrigues scored a power-play goal with 7:31 left in the third period, for his second of the game, and third of the series, to extend the Panthers lead to 3-1. The power-play goal ended the Oilers’ streak of 34 consecutive penalty kills.

“I think our mentality changed in the third, where we stopped treating it like a power-play and started treating it like 5-on-5. They come with a lot of pressure and if we try to make a cute play, it’s never going to work,” Rodrigues said of the power-play goal.

With his two goals, Rodrigues became the first player in Panthers franchise history with a multi-goal game in the Stanley Cup Final.

Aaron Ekblad added a fourth for the Panthers, scoring an empty-net goal to close out the victory.

The Panthers lost captain Aleksander Barkov midway through the third period, after taking a hit in the head from Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl. He would leave the game and not return. Draisaitl received a minor penalty for roughing.

After being shutout in the opening game of the series, the Oilers again failed to get much going offensively.

Their seven shot attempts through the first two periods tied the record for the fewest-ever in Stanley Cup Final history. Edmonton – who led the league with shots on goal during the regular season – finished with 19 attempts, with Bobrovsky making 18 saves.

“We feel we came here and we played enough to get a split,” Edmonton coach Kris Knoblauch said after the game. “That doesn’t always happen. We just have to take it one game at time.

“I don’t see any reason to panic or do anything drastic … We just have to win the next game.”

Entering the series with a 1-8 record in the Stanley Cup Final, the Panthers will travel to Edmonton with a 2-0 series lead for Thursday’ night’s Game 3.

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