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Florida Panthers play biggest game in team history, one last chance to win Stanley Cup | CBS News Miami's Steve Goldstein

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MIAMI — They arrived at training camp more than nine months ago. The Heat was still in offseason mode. The Dolphins had just scored 70 points against Denver in an early season game. The Marlins were still playing their 2023 season on their way to the playoffs.

All those seasons are over with. That's how long ago this Panther team got together after reaching the 2023 Stanley Cup Final. Fast forward to today and the 2024 Stanley Cup Final.

Remarkably, their 209th game over the last two seasons will decide the team's fate and place in history. Game 7 is Monday night at Amerant Bank Arena against the Edmonton Oilers. The Stanley Cup will be awarded to either Aleksander Barkov or Connor McDavid to raise above their head.

It is the third Game 7 in South Florida sports history. The Marlins and Heat both became champions.

On the line

After breezing through most of the playoffs winning 15 of 20 games the script has flipped. Leading Edmonton 3-0 it seemed inevitable that the Panthers would get that final victory for the first Stanley Cup in franchise history. The Oilers though have matched the Panthers, winning 3 in a row to force a game seven.

What comes next?

A Florida win? The Game 7 recovery will be the stuff people talk about for decades to come. An Edmonton win? Their epic comeback and Panther loss will be talked about for decades to come. The Oilers attempt to join the 1942 Maple Leafs as the only two teams ever to erase a 3-0 cup final deficit. Whatever happens Monday night will be historic.

Panthers find their game

In stunning fashion, the Panthers have not resembled the team they'd been all season in the last three games. Their trademark forecheck, defense and high shot volume have been exploited and shut down by the Oilers and their speed. Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky saved the day in game one, but the odd-man rushes and breakaways are now finding the back of the net. The Panthers need to turn back the clock to the previous 105 games. Big saves, and an effective, efficient, smart game is needed. And getting the lead is imperative as they have not led since game three.

Be special

Give Edmonton credit. Their penalty kill is historically good. The Panthers must find a way to be effective on the power play. Quicker puck movement, easier said than done vs. the Oilers aggressive, quick penalty killers, is needed to generate chances and shots on goal. And even if they don't score, success in those areas will maintain momentum in the game. The Panthers look a repeat performance of game 6 in which they did a good job staying out of the penalty box and on the penalty kill when needed.

Embrace the Moment

There are moments in sports when players and teams rise to the occasion and show their heart. The Panthers have done it numerous times over the last couple of years and in their current situation it is the ultimate challenge to do it again, in the biggest game in franchise history. Hockey is the only sport without an out of bounds and there are numerous plays during a game where the player and team that simply wants it more has the advantage. Desire and heart are immeasurable qualities. A minority of NHL players ever get the opportunity to play in a game seven for the Stanley Cup. The Oilers have come back a three-game deficit to give themselves a chance. It's now up to the Panthers, to a man, to dig deep and play their best game.

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