Stanley Cup Final: Oilers, Panthers ready for historic Game 7: 'It’s not your ordinary game'

The 1941-42 Maple Leafs were the last NHL team to win the Stanley Cup after falling behind 3-0 in the series

The Panthers could win their first-ever Stanley Cup title in franchise history in Game 7 or allow the Oilers to complete a historic series comeback Monday night. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Edmonton Oilers or the Florida Panthers will lift the Stanley Cup on Monday night following Game 7 (8 p.m. ET; ABC). It will be a historic achievement no matter the result: a first-ever championship for the Panthers or a completed series comeback by the Oilers that has not been seen in the Stanley Cup Final since 1942.

The Oilers have already made history. They are the first NHL team since the 1944-45 Detroit Red Wings to fall behind in the Cup Final 3-0 and force a Game 7. Win on Monday night and they join the 1941-42 Toronto Maple Leafs as the only teams to finish the job.

“It’s not your ordinary game, everybody understands that, but you’ve got to make it as ordinary as possible in your head,” Oilers captain Connor McDavid said on Sunday. “Our room has done a great job of being at our best in these big moments, and I would expect no different.”

After the Panthers’ 4-3 victory in Game 3, it seemed as if Florida would eventually be crowned champions. They were in complete control of the series and the Oilers had no answers. Even after Edmonton’s 8-1 rout in Game 4 to stave off elimination, it was thought that the Panthers would rebound and close it out in Game 5 at home.

But they did not. The series got away from the Panthers and the Oilers woke up, including McDavid, who recorded eight points during victories in Games 4 and 5. Now he’s helped bring the franchise to the game every young hockey player dreams about.

One win and you’re forever a champion.

“You’re not sure you’re ever going to get that opportunity,” McDavid said. “Here we are with that opportunity.”

There will be nerves during Game 7 on both sides. But if you’re the Panthers, having an extra day off between Games 6 and 7, realizing you’re on the verge of blowing a 3-0 series lead in the Cup Final could have an adverse effect on their mental preparation.

Oilers captain Connor McDavid leads all players with 11 points through six games of the Stanley Cup Final. (Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Oilers captain Connor McDavid leads all players with 11 points through six games of the Stanley Cup Final. (Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“I think this is going to be the ultimate test for the Florida Panthers mentally,” NHL Network’s Mike Rupp told Yahoo Sports on Monday. “I think they’re a really strong mental group. You can turn off your TV, you can shut down social media, you can put your phone down, you still know that it was 3-0. You’ve had a number of chances to close this thing out and now you’ve got to sit here an extra day and think about it. It’s gotta be hard.

"I’ve never been there. How do you push that out of your head and just make sure you’re not thinking about it?”

Rupp knows about the pressures of playing in a Game 7. He played in six of them during his 11-season NHL career, but none were as memorable as his performance in the final game of the 2003 Stanley Cup Final, when he scored a goal and recorded two assists as the New Jersey Devils shut out the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim 3-0 to capture their third title.

As a 23-year-old rookie, Rupp was surrounded by veterans and future Hall of Famers on that Devils team. Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, Ken Daneyko, Patrik Eliáš and Sergei Brylin, among others, were in that dressing room acting as if Game 7 of a Cup Final was just another day in the season.

That’s how the Panthers need to approach Monday night. They also, as Rupp notes, should remember why they're on the verge of a championship for the second straight season.

“It’s really paramount for them to not sit there and look at their opponent and be like, 'Oh, they’ve got Connor McDavid, they’re breaking records, this hasn’t been done since 1945' and 'Oh, my gosh, we were up 3-0.' You can’t think about that," Rupp said. "At some point here you’ve got to turn it around [and] be like, 'Let’s not forget who we are. It’s not about everything they are and everything we need to adjust to who they are.'”

The Panthers won the Atlantic Division title, finished third in the Eastern Conference and lost only five times through three rounds en route to reaching the Stanley Cup Final. They also have already beaten this Oilers team three times in a row, dominating on the forecheck, getting timely goals and solid goaltending from Sergei Bobrovsky.

“Doesn’t matter how it’s gone or how you draw it up,” said Panthers forward Matthew Tkachuk. “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.”

Now it’s just about Game 7 and one final victory separating them from a summer of celebration.

“You’ve got one game to play. It doesn’t matter how you got here,” Rupp said. “That’s the only message that can be out there.”

Game 1: Panthers 3, Oilers 0
Game 2: Panthers 4, Oilers 1
Game 3: Panthers 4, Oilers 3
Game 4: Oilers 8, Panthers 1
Game 5: Oilers 5, Panthers 3
Game 6: Oilers 5, Panthers 1
Game 7: Oilers at Panthers | Monday, June 24, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+)