Maurice: Blowout loss ‘all part of this process’

NHL

EDMONTON, Alberta — The Florida Panthers said their blowout loss to the Edmonton Oilers in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final was a learning experience.

What a harsh education it was: Losing 8-1 on Saturday night, watching their star goaltender get pulled and squandering a chance to win the Cup in a series sweep.

“We either win or we learn,” captain Aleksander Barkov said. “It only counts as one win. It doesn’t matter how much you lose — whether it’s 2-1 or 8-1. Obviously, we need to bounce back. We need to recover now and think about the next one.”

The Panthers had not been beaten that emphatically all postseason. In fact, the Oilers made NHL history in the win, tying the 1918 Vancouver Millionaires for the largest margin of victory when facing elimination in the Stanley Cup Final. They were one goal away from tying the largest margin of victory in Stanley Cup Final history, a record eight goals set by the Pittsburgh Penguins against the Minnesota North Stars in 1991.

Florida coach Paul Maurice downplayed the blowout loss.

“I’ll fire up at least one cliché for you: We came into Edmonton to get a split and we got what we needed,” he said. “But most clichés have some merit to it. In general, things will be far more extreme outside your room than inside it. So at 3-0 [in the series], we’re not sitting there, getting the engravers out. We lost the game tonight.”

Edmonton couldn’t have scripted a bigger reversal of fortune after three straight losses.

Star center Connor McDavid had a four-point night, setting an NHL record for most assists in a single postseason (32) in the process. His 38 points are fifth all-time in a single postseason.

Their other standout offensive players hit the score sheet for the first time in the series, as Leon Draisaitl, Zach Hyman, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Evan Bouchard all recorded their first points against the Panthers. The Oilers power play finally converted, having now gone 1-for-16 in the series — although Maurice said he’s “not counting” that one, as it was scored on a 5-on-3 power play.

Perhaps most of all, they chased goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, scoring five goals on 16 shots against the netminder. That gave them seven goals in their past three periods against the previously impenetrable goalie, who entered Game 4 with a .953 save percentage in the series.

“He’d have enough,” said Maurice, who replaced Bobrovsky with Anthony Stolarz at 4:59 of the second period. “My number on Bob’s probably five [goals] in general. So that’s [a] steady decision.”

Winger Matthew Tkachuk said he was not worried about carry over to Game 5 for Bobrovsky.

“We gave up eight goals, and zero of them were the goalie’s fault,” he said. “[Bobrovsky] has been unbelievable all year, all playoffs. That was more of a wake-up call to the forwards and the D as opposed to [him]. It had nothing to do with Bob. We know he’s going to come back better than ever, and with that being said, none of them were his fault.”

The Panthers had a chance to win the Stanley Cup in a sweep. The chalice was in the building. The players said that wasn’t a distraction. Their coach acknowledged it presented a different kind of challenge.

“It’s the first opportunity that we’ve had as a franchise really to feel the two [past] days — the excitement of it, the emotions of it. We’ll learn how to channel it. That’s all part of this process,” he said.

Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final is Tuesday night in Sunrise, Florida.

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