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Panthers special teams struggle again in Game 5 loss

Panthers special teams struggle again in Game 5 loss

Florida was able to survive its struggling power play in the first three games of the series as the penalty was able to keep Edmonton’s potent power play in check. But it’s become a bigger problem as the Oilers’ power play has come to life.

Edmonton converted 19 of 51 power-play chances for an NHL-best efficiency of 37.3 percent through the first three rounds of the playoffs, but went 0-for-10 in the first three games of the Cup Final. The man-advantage drought reached 12 before Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ 5-on-3 goal at 13:03 of the second period of Game 4.

That goal seemed to give the Oilers some confidence on the power play heading into Game 5. After the Oilers’ first power play was cut short by a Nugent-Hopkins hooking penalty 1:03 into the first period, they made full use of their second power. play to start the second period.

There were just two seconds left in Niko Mikkola’s interference penalty when Evan Bouchard’s center shot was deflected off Oilers forward Zach Hyman to make it 2-0 at 1:58 of the second period. There were just eight seconds left on Kyle Okposo’s hooking penalty when Corey Perry converted a Connor McDavid pass into another power-play goal that increased Edmonton’s lead to 4-1 at 11:54 of the second.

McDavid did most of the work on that, appearing to catch the Panthers napping near the end of the power play with a dazzling 1-on-4 rush before passing to Perry to his right for the finish.

“We just got caught too late,” Maurice said. “I think we can clean up some of that by keeping our energy a little higher, going a little shorter.”

The Panthers then bounced back with goals from Rodrigues and Oliver Ekman-Larsson to make it 4-3 before McDavid’s completed his second consecutive four-point game (two goals, two assists) with an empty-net goal at 19:41.

Perry’s power play goal proved to be the game winner. Edmonton finished the game 2-for-5 with the man advantage.

“I think we had been good, still fighting and had good sticks,” Ekman-Larsson said of the Panthers’ penalty kill. “We just have to keep fighting, keep doing what we’re doing. It is clear that we believe in our murder. It’s been good all year.”

Florida defeated Edmonton 3-1 at 5-on-5, but was outscored 3-0 on special teams, which proved to be the difference in the game.

“They put the puck in the net when they had their chances,” Tkachuk said. “We had good pressure. I thought 5-on-5 (we) played really well tonight. That’s something to build on for the next game. Of course we want to keep it 5 against 5. We want to stay off the beaten track. If we do get a power play, play on it, but try to keep it 5-on-5 as much as possible.”