A combination of some iffy reffing and a tough, determined and excellent Florida Panthers team combined to defeat the Edmonton Oilers 4-1 in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.

To give Florida credit, they played a fierce game, had more of the best chances, and had more to give against a tired and beat up Oilers squad as the game went on.

“I thought they went up a level and we didn’t match it today,” said Oilers captain Connor McDavid.

But as Sportsnet announcer Ken Reid said after the game: “If I’m an Oilers fan I’m probably going to be talking about the refs right now.”

Added commentator Luke Gazdic: “(The refs) were a part of it and at this point in the Stanley Cup playoffs you don’t want them to be a part of it.”

Gazdic questioned the five-minute major on Warren Foegele and mentioned a likely missed delay of game penalty on Florida’s Kevin Stenlund that would have given the Oilers a lengthy 5-on-3 power play. He added there were iffy calls against both teams.

The Oilers have scored just one goal in two games against Florida and their string of 34 straight kills came to an end.

Now the series goes to Edmonton.

“It’s exciting,” said the uncomplaining McDavid. “It’s another opportunity to come together and dig our way out. It’s supposed to be hard. It’s supposed to be difficult. And I’m excited to see what our group is made of. I’m excited to see our group our come together. I’m excited to see us fight through adversity. I’m looking forward to people doubt us again. We’re good with our backs against the wall.”

Overall, Edmonton had eight Grade A shots, Florida nine, with the subset of more dangerous 5-alarm shots being the Oilers just one, the Panthers four (running count).

Connor McDavid, 8. Edmonton’s best attacker in this one. He was in on seven of eight Edmonton’s Grade A shots. He gave it his all. Florida employed an intriguing “Death by One Thousand Slashes” strategy to thwart McDavid, hacking him at every opportunity, knowing the refs were unlikely to call it. McDavid stopped Barkov in the slot on a dangerous rebound on the game’s first shift. He kicked off Ekholm’s scoring play with a calm puck protect and pass. Lost his check on the same 4-on-4 leading to a Florida Grade A. He got out-muscled by Vlad Tarasenko on the rush for a 5-alarm Panthers chance late in the first. He made a stretch pass to kick off Ekholm’s third period one-timer. He took three slashes from Matthew Tkachuk on his third period breakaway, no call. Terrible non-call on that one, playing right into Florida’s hands. Contributions to Grade A Shots (GAS): Even Strength +4/-2; Special Teams +2/ -0

Zach Hyman, 6. He charged the net hard in the first, got obviously grabbed by Gustav Forling but no penalty. He threw a wicked hit on Dmitry Kulikov to kick off some o-zone pressure. Two big screens led to two dangerous Oilers PP shot in the second. He took a wicked slash, then set up Ekholm for a nasty harpoon on net with seven minutes left in the third. “We weren’t playing with enough pace,” he said after the game. GAS: ES +1/-1; ST +2/-0.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 6. Some excellent PK work. He was harassing Eetu Luostarinen when the Florida forward flipped puck out just below his own blueline an evident missed call from the referees. “It should have been a penalty,” said Sportsnet’s Ron MacLean, who isn’t know to pick on the referees. He passed up a wide open power play shot in the second, but zipped one a moment later off the post. GAS: ES +0/-0; ST +1/-0.

Adam Henrique, 5.  Solid play but not much dynamism on the attack. GAS: ES +0/-1; ST +0/-0.

Leon Draisaitl, 4. Tough game. He was unable to muster much on the attack, almost zilch at even strength. He and Bouchard lost Sam Bennett in the slot for a wide open 5-alarm ripper early in the second, but Bennett missed the net.  He launched his Executioner’s Shot on net from an exceptionally difficult angle in the second, but Bobrovsky stopped it. He got off another Executioner’s Shot on the 6-on-5, but no goal. He took a penalty on Aleksander Barkov late in the game that Gazdic also thought was iffy. “We can certainly be better, it starts me with,” he said after the game, showing some excellent leadership. “I can only speak for myself, I have a lot more to give. Not my best tonight. I’m owning that.” GAS: ES +1/-1; ST +1/-0.

Evander Kane, 4. Not much impact this game.  GAS: ES +0/-0; ST +0/-0.

Ryan McLeod, 4. Did some good work on the kill but failed to get the puck out kicking off the Sequence of Pain on Florida’s second goal, which he ended by screening Skinner, the puck also appearing to go in off of him. GAS: ES +0/-1; ST +0/-1.

Warren Foegele, INC. He played just 1:54, then got booted on a controversial call. Took out Eetu Luostarinen with a knee-on-knee hit while going for the puck, taking a five-minute major and game misconduct, a harsh assessment. “I wouldn’t call that a five in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals” said Sportsnet’s Kevin Bieksa. “It is a knee, but it’s a two (minute penalty). I do think Luostarinen is trying to avoid him so he’s kind of part of it. Luostarinen, he’s on the ice for a bit. He’s also out the next shift. I don’t know if it’s a sell job or not.” Narrator: it’s a sell job. But that is also smart hockey. GAS: ES +0/-0; ST +0/-0.

Dylan Holloway, 6. Hustled hard and was sound on defence early on, also throwing numerous hits. GAS: ES +0/-0; ST +0/-0.

Sam Carrick, 4. He looked a step behind now and then, and was one of the culprit’s on Bennett’s late second 5-alarmer. He took a late penalty for a nasty slash. GAS: ES +0/-0; ST +0/-1.

Connor Brown, 5. He drew what looked to be a soft hooking call on Tkachuk early in the second. He was slow to Mikkola on the first Panthers goal. Part of that excellent Oilers PK unit. GAS: ES +0/-1; ST +0/-0.

Mattias Janmark, 5. He’s playing inspired hockey in all situations, but he was a step late getting to Rodrigues on the Florida power play goal, the crushing third talley. He got tripped up on a hustle play on Foegele’s major, drawing a key penalty. GAS: ES +0/-0; ST +0/-1.

Evan Bouchard, 3. He played 30:40, too much, too much. We saw some tough plays and mistakes from  a tired d-man. Absorbed an early dirty hit from Sam Bennett, drawing a penalty. He made a smart block play on Barkov’s on Edmonton’s first goal. He took an ill-advised penalty on Tkachuk. He smashed a bomb off the post, then took a slashing penalty. He played heavy minutes in the first two minutes and looked fatigued in the third, perhaps contributing to his rough turnover on the second Panthers goal. He got beat down the boards on Florida’s power play goal, a situation he does not usually play. GAS: ES +1/-2; ST +0/-1.

Mattias Ekholm, 8. The Oil’s best player in this one. Took advantage of a 3-on-1 early on, drilling in a shot as Bobrovsky, beating the goalie who is never beaten 5-hole through the 5-hole. He made a key defensive stop in the second to cut-out a 2-on-1 pass. GAS: ES +3/-2; ST +0/-0.

Brett Kulak, 4. He was steady this game, but one of the culprit’s on the third goal, failing to cover off the danger man, Rodrigues. He led the Oilers with five shots, but none of them too dangerous. GAS: ES +0/-1; ST +0/-1.

Philip Broberg, 5. Solid to start but made a soft play in the n-zone leading to a 2-on-1 and a 5-alarm shot by Matthew Tkachuk.  He took a wicked Bennett blast check early in the third, but got up and went after Tkachuk. But he made a great pass to send in McDavid on his late breakaway. GAS: ES +1/-2; ST +0/-0.

Darnell Nurse, INC. All year long the Oilers d-men were healthy, but then came Nurse getting hurt due to a crunching hit by Rodrigues that seemingly injured or aggravated Nurse’s shoulder. He played just 2:18 in the first after getting banged up, leaving the game, then coming back for one 13 second shift before leaving again. He took seven shifts in total, playing 4:20. GAS: ES +0/-0; ST +0/-0.

Vincent Desharnais, 5. Held his own early on but allowed the pass out late in the second on Bennett’s 5-alarmer. He came back but played just 4:20. GAS: ES +0/-0; ST +0/-1.

Stuart Skinner, 6.  Solid on this first traffic, touches and shots. But he got out of position and lost balance on his push, leaving a wide open net for Brandon Montour to shoot and miss, blasting it off the crossbar. A moment later he thwarted Ekblad’s tough shot. He got beat on an outside shot by Mikkola, albeit a wicked blast. Battled back brilliantly, thwarting Tkachuk’s 5-alarmer, then an even more wicked shot from Sam Bennett on the power play late in the second. He got screened by McLeod on the second Florida goal.

At the Cult of Hockey

STAPLES: Pre-game evaluation Knoblauch’s major Game 2 moves. Enough to win? 

STAPLES: Don Cherry on Edmonton Oilers Game 1 loss: “That was his greatest game”

LEAVINS: 9 Things, including a look at Knoblauch’s tough decisions for Game 2

McCURDY: Player grades for Game 1 with Broberg and Janmark grading out highest

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