It’s easy to pinpoint what went wrong for the Oilers and what is to blame for their Game 2 loss in the Stanley Cup Final. Hockey can be a confusing sport. The Oilers outshot the Panthers 32-17 in Game 1 but suffered a 3-0 defeat. In Game 2, the Oilers had just seven shots compared to the Panthers' 22 after the second period, but the game was tied at one.

Evan Rodrigues gave the Panthers their first lead of the game with 17 minutes remaining in the third period, then padded the lead with his second of the night with seven minutes remaining. Aaron Ekblad sealed the game with an empty-netter to make it 4-1.

The Oilers now find themselves in a two-game hole, returning to what will be a raucous environment in Edmonton. The good news for Edmonton is that a team isn’t in trouble in a playoff series until they lose a game at home. The Oilers can narrow the deficit on Thursday night, then even it up on Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday night. What needs to change, and who needs to improve to make that a reality?

Oilers' stars need to be better

The Edmonton Oilers had a distinct advantage entering this series. They have an elite powerplay, which could exploit the undisciplined play of the Panthers, who lead the playoffs in penalty minutes. The Oilers had an early chance to capitalize. However, the team's dominant first powerplay line of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Zach Hyman, and Evan Bouchard failed to register a shot.

The Oilers scored their first goal of the Stanley Cup Final when Mattias Ekholm scored four-on-four off assists from Connor McDavid and Evan Bouchard. It felt like the momentum shift could open the floodgates for their high-powered offense after getting shut out in Game 1.

The floodgates didn't open. The Oilers had just seven shots after the second period and finished with 19. Edmonton's forwards had just six shots total. The Oilers couldn't find the back of the net against Sergei Bobrovsky with 32 shots in Game 1, so it's no surprise they couldn't score enough to win Game 2.

The top-ranked Oilers powerplay needs to be better at home. They were 0-7 through the series' first two games, which is a recipe for a short series if it continues. There's a good chance that we'll see the best that McDavid and Draisaitl have to offer in Games 3 and 4, but after losing by a combined score of 7-1 in the first two games, there are questions about whether their best will be enough.

Evan Bouchard's giveaway gives Panthers the lead

Edmonton Oilers defenseman Evan Bouchard (2) controls the puck against Florida Panthers forward Kyle Okposo (8) during the third period in game one of the 2024 Stanley Cup Final at Amerant Bank Arena.
© Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Bouchard has been a star for the Oilers during the postseason, which makes it hard to single him out in this game. However, his giveaway to Evan Rodrigues on the 2-1 goal will be a tough pill to swallow. The Oilers had two opportunities to clear the puck and hold the 1-1 tie, but Bouchard's clearing attempt found Rodrigues' stick, and he sniped it on Stuart Skinner.

The play from the pairing of Bouchard and Mattias Ekholm is disappointing after they combined to give the Oilers the lead in the first period. Kris Knoblauch's moves with his defensive pairings worked despite Darnell Nurse missing most of the game with an injury.

Knoblauch now has the decision to make. Will he keep his lineup the same or make some more adjustments? A major penalty to Warren Foegele in the first period could force his hand to re-insert veteran Corey Perry into the lineup. All these questions will be answered on Thursday night when the Oilers and Panthers battle in Game 3.