Panthers better prepared to hoist Stanley Cup after Game 4 loss

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers squandered a chance to win the Stanley Cup in Game 4 against the Edmonton Oilers. That experience might be what was needed to eventually win it.

"I think you learn from it. I think the nerves are a little bit less now," winger Carter Verhaeghe said ahead of Tuesday's Stanley Cup Final Game 5 against the Oilers in Sunrise. "It's a little different with the Cup in the building, but we're not really focused on that. We're just trying to focus on playing as well as we can."

Edmonton forced Game 5 with an 8-1 win Saturday night.

Florida has closed out six playoff series in the past two postseasons under coach Paul Maurice. But he said it is a different mental challenge when the players know that the Cup has been wheeled into the building.

"It is different. What's foremost in your head coming to the rink? That it's there, right?" Maurice said. "So we went through it, and it's not something you can truly appreciate until you go through it."

Forward Evan Rodrigues said the Oilers played "desperate" hockey and the Panthers weren't ready to match it. "I think there was a lot of energy going into that game. I think we'll be better prepared for Game 5 than we were for Game 4," he said.

The Oilers come into Game 5 with their backs still firmly planted against the wall, but with more than a little confidence. They felt they had outplayed Florida for the balance of the series, but that goalie Sergei Bobrovsky had kept every mistake out of the Panthers' net.

Now, they've scored seven goals against him in the past three periods, chasing Bobrovsky to the bench in the second period of Game 4.

"I think we just finally unlocked being able to get past this guy. He's been playing so well," said forward Dylan Holloway. "We knew at some point we were going to break through. We've got so much skill that I think we were due. But at the same time, he's such a good goalie that you never know. I mean, he can steal games."

The Panthers were not concerned about the Oilers breaking through against Bobrovsky.

"Because he's Bob," Dmitry Kulikov said. "He's just great. He's our MVP right now."

The Oilers are the ninth team in NHL history to extend a best-of-7 Stanley Cup Final after falling behind 3-0. Five of those teams would lose in Game 5. The 2012 New Jersey Devils lost in six and the 1945 Detroit Red Wings lost in seven. One team, the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, rallied to win the Cup.

The odds remain in the Panthers' favor, but they're not taking solace in that.

"Oh, there's no comfort in the playoffs, man. You're never in a comfortable position in the playoffs. You've earned your wins, you've earned your losses. It's the same feeling," Maurice said.