It may be time for the Edmonton Oilers to tip their caps to the Florida Panthers and congratulate them on a successful run.

One team in NHL history has rallied from a 3-0 deficit in the Stanley Cup Final. If you have a relative older than 82, you can ask them what that series was like, as the Toronto Maple Leafs accomplished that feat in 1942. The odds are against the Oilers in this series, and the Canadian Stanley Cup drought will likely continue. The Oilers can blame Sergei Bobrovsky for shutting down their historic powerplay or credit a near-perfect defensive effort from the Panthers. However, there are some players on the Oilers' bench they can blame the most for their 4-3 loss in Game 3.

The Oilers looked good for the first 30 minutes of Game 3. Sam Reinhart opened the scoring for the Panthers in the first period, but Warren Foegele evened the game in the second. Foegele's goal was the last highlight for the Oilers, as they fell apart in the final ten minutes of the second, allowing three consecutive goals to go down 4-1. Fans hoped for a more entertaining Stanley Cup Final, but there isn't much reason to believe the Oilers can put together a good 60 minutes four consecutive times to mount this comeback.

The Oilers could win Game 4 to extend the series and avoid the embarrassment of a finals sweep. Deep down, the Panthers would probably prefer to win the historic trophy in front of their home fans. If the Oilers don't clean up their defensive deficiencies, that won't happen, and they'll also be looking to get more from their goaltending after outshooting the Panthers by a wide margin in Game 3.

Oilers' defense struggles again

Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov (16) skates with the puck defended by Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse (25) and defenseman Philip Broberg (86) in the first period in game three of the 2024 Stanley Cup Final at Rogers Place.
© Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

As the old saying goes, defense wins championships. The Oilers thought they could debunk this theory with two of the best offensive players in the world, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. However, they're realizing that the team defense by the Panthers is more valuable. The Oilers re-inserted Cody Ceci into the lineup after healthy scratching him for Game 2. Kris Knoblauch was smart enough not to put Ceci and Darnell Nurse together, but in Game 3, they showed Knoblauch they could do as much damage apart.

Nurse's new defense partner, Phillip Broberg, got it started in the game's opening minutes, giving away numerous pucks to the aggressive Panthers forecheck. The Oilers' defense corp settled in for the remainder of the first period and the first half of the second but then started to unravel.

Ceci made a soft play on the puck behind the net against Eetu Luostarinen, leading him to find Vladimir Tarasenko for the go-ahead goal. Then, Darnell Nurse had a dreadful giveaway in his end, which Sam Bennett found and deposited into the net. The Panthers smelled blood in the water, adding a fourth goal to end the second period after they got behind Evan Bouchard and Mattias Ekholm for a breakaway.

Stuart Skinner didn't have much help in front of him in this game, but his four goals allowed on 23 shots won't keep Oilers fans happy. Sergei Bobrovsky was a game-changer for the Oilers, stopping 32 of 35 shots, with numerous outstanding saves mixed in. Bobrovsky must be in the Oilers' heads, as their stars fail to contribute in this series against the Panthers.

Where are you, Leon Draisaitl?

Draisaitl was held off the scoresheet again in this game, which gives him zero points and a -2 rating in this series. The defense and goaltending will get most of the ridicule after this series ends, but Draisaitl's performance leaves plenty of questions. He and McDavid are supposed to be a two-headed monster, but only one player has lived up to his end of the bargain. McDavid has three assists, 14 shots, and a plus rating in back-to-back games despite losing both.

The Oilers will be up against the salary cap this offseason with plenty of spots left to fill. Darnell Nurse's $9.5 million contract will be a point of contention, as that looks like one of the worst values in the NHL. However, Draisaitl will be in the final year of an $8.5 million deal next season. The Oilers' two superstars made it this far, but their lack of depth in the net and on the backend shone through in this series.

Is it time for Oilers fans to start having the difficult conversation about what a move away from Draisaitl would look like? The salary cap you save from him could get you an upgrade on defense, and with a year left in his deal, there could even be a possible deal. The Oilers could trade Draisaitl for immediate defense and goaltending help, solidifying their depth. There is a team in Boston with the 2023 Vezina Trophy Winner on the trade block and a need for help down the middle of the ice. However, before the Oilers worry about Draisaitl's future, they must find a way to come back in the Stanley Cup Final.