The Florida Panthers had visions of lifting the Stanley Cup over their heads when they took the ice for Game 4 against the Edmonton Oilers. The Panthers had a 3-0 series lead and looked invincible, fueling the belief they would sweep the Stanley Cup Final. However, much like their NBA counterparts, the sweep wasn't in the cards, as the team with their backs against the wall dominated Game 4 to extend the series to five. The Panthers will now have the chance to finish the job on Tuesday night. Let's pinpoint who is most to blame for the Panthers' 8-1 loss to the Oilers.

The Oilers got the home fans into the game early when Mattias Janmark opened the scoring short-handed three minutes into the game. The Oilers avoided disaster after the referees reduced Darnell Nurse's kneeing penalty to a minor penalty after a review to determine whether it was worthy of a major. This game may have been different if the Panthers had a five-minute powerplay and opened the scoring. Vladimir Tarasenko, one of two Florida Panthers to previously win a Stanley Cup, made the score 2-1 midway through the first period. However, that was the closest the Panthers would come.

The Oilers exploded for three straight goals after that, chasing Sergei Bobrovsky from the net after allowing five goals on 12 shots. The Oilers' job is now straightforward. Steal a win on the road in Game 5, then try to win another game on home ice in Game 6. If they can do that, anything can happen in Game 7.

A Panthers hero fails to deliver the Stanley Cup

Florida Panthers goaltender Anthony Stolarz (41) relieves Sergei Bobrovsky (72) in the second period against the Edmonton Oilers in game four of the 2024 Stanley Cup Final at Rogers Place.
© Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

The discourse around Sergei Bobrovsky was at an all-time high after Game 3. Bobrovsky had one of the best games of his career, making numerous highlight reel stops to put his team on the brink of greatness. The popular narrative in the days leading up to Game 4 was that one more win for Bobrovsky would cement his Hall of Fame resume. The steady Bobrovsky may have let the talks get in his head, as he looked like a nervous goalie in Game 4. Bobrovsky allowed five goals on 12 shots before getting pulled in favor of Anthony Stolarz with 15:01 remaining in the second period.

It's hard to blame Bobrovsky, who has led the Panthers to two consecutive Stanley Cup Finals. However, the numbers are a bit concerning for Bobrovsky. He struggled in the third period of Game 3, almost allowing the Oilers to come back, then put up a dud in this game. The Panthers have plenty of breathing room for Bobrovsky to get back in form, but one more loss will make things tighten up for Florida.

Bobrovsky has lost five games in these playoffs. The Russian goaltender has been lights out in the following games, putting up save percentages of .969, .933, .957, .783, and .913. The Panthers hope that Game 5 will have him play more like the four great games, not the .783 game. If he does have one of those heroic efforts, he won't even remember the poor game he put up in Edmonton in Game 4.

“Pesky Cats” lose their composure

Hockey fans celebrate the Panthers for their old-school, in-your-face style that the older generation grew up watching. Most teams would struggle to maintain their composure in a series-clinching game, but something about the Panthers made everyone think they would be immune to that issue. We should have seen it coming, as the Panthers failed to win the first close-out games in Rounds 1 and 2.

The Panthers went up 3-0 on the Lightning in Round 1 and finished the job with a 6-1 win after dropping Game 4. Then, they went up 3-1 on the Bruins and lost Game 5 before squeezing out a 2-1 victory in Game 6. You can expect the Panthers to come out with more energy in Game 5, as Paul Maurice is one of the best coaches in the NHL. He will undoubtedly take the blame for not having his players ready to play in Game 4 and vow to rectify it in Game 5.

Game 5 will be an intriguing matchup, as the Oilers have a stat to counter the Panthers' propensity to bounce back after elimination game losses. The Oilers have gone on a three-game losing streak three times since Kris Knoblauch became head coach. After those droughts, they managed to go on 8, 16, and 5 game-winning streaks.

The Oilers' ability to string together wins can't be encouraging for Panthers fans, but Florida has three games to close the deal, with two being home matchups. Will the Panthers be able to buck the Oilers' trend, or will Edmonton become the first team since the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1942 to come back from a 3-0 deficit in the Stanley Cup Final?