Cote: Florida Panthers, up 3-0, will win Stanley Cup unless Edmonton parties like it’s 1942 | Opinion

I would never, ever suggest that the Florida Panthers with a 3-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Final should get a jump on that parade plan. Or that the Edmonton Oilers don’t still have a chance.

I’ll let the math do the talking instead. (Canada, cover your eyes.)

Teams with a 3-0 series lead in NHL playoff history go on to win 98.1 percent of the time, or 206-4. Teams up 3-0 in the Final are 27-1 all-time. The one and only team to blow it was the Detroit Red Wings ... in 1942. It was the middle of World War II. A brand new car cost $800.

The country that invented hockey last won a Stanley Cup in 1993, and that country must be weeping in June yet again.

On the bright side, Canada, there’s still curling, eh?

After Florida’s 4-3 Game 3 road victory Thursday night, the only drama that seems left in this Final is whether it will end with a sweep in Game 4 Saturday back in Edmonton -- that would be the first Final sweep since 1998 -- or if Panthers fans will get the chance to cheer the first Cup-lift in franchise history at home in Game 5 on Tuesday in the Sunrise barn.

“Our will to win this game was huge,” said Panther Sam Bennett. “We have 23 dogs on our team that have that will. You either have it, or you don’t.”

Can the Cats complete the golden sweep for the silver chalice on Saturday?

“Obviously it’s there for us, but you don’t think about it. Can’t think about it,” said captain Aleksander Barkov, a Game 3 star after a dirty-hit injury the game before. “We know [Saturday] is going to be the hardest game for sure. We don’t take anything for granted. Every single day is one day at a time. Whether it’s one period, one shift, we take it one at a time. That’s how we’ve been all year.”

Coach Paul Maurice will hate anyone leaning on historical data to suggest this series is over. He’s forever in the preparing-for-seven-games mindset. But coaches are superstitious and have to avoid any hint of seeming too confident. Not me!

Goaltender Sergei Bobrovksy, Florida’s penalty kill and the two-way star Barkov have forged this 3-0 control.

In contrast, Edmonton’s stars have largely disappeared. Connor McDavid has proved McOverrated (like a wise man once said) and Leon Draisaitl has been Dry-saital, neither scoring a goal in this Final. Also, Oilers goalie Stuart Skinner has been pretty bad, and defenseman Darnell Nurse has been worse.

“We’re trying to figure them out,” said McDavid afterward.

Might want to hurry?

It was a crazy game, with the Cats racing to a seemingly safe 4-1 lead before Edmonton desperately rallied late.

Edmonton enjoyed the better of play in the first period, stoked by starved fans cheering their first Stanley Cup Final home game since 2006 in search of their first championship since 1990.

But Florida ended the opening period with raised sticks and cheering.

It happened with only 1:02 left and on a 4-on-4, with each team in the penalty box after a populous skirmish. Captain Barkov -- back after a dirty hit to the jaw shelved him near the end of Game 2 -- began the scoring play with a takeaway at mid-ice. He fed Gustav Forsling,whose slap shot from distance turned into a redirected goal off Sam Reinhart’s stick in close.

Reinhart cashing was a welcome sight. He led the Cats with 57 season goals, second most in the NHL, but had been on a six-game postseason drought before making it 1-0.

Reinhart had said after Thursday’s morning skate, “It’s us against everybody.”

The Panthers are winning.

Two staples of Florida;’s defense --and Stanley Cup run -- again stood tall early, with Bobrovsky stopping everything, and with the Panthers penalty kill snuffing both Oilers power plays to render Edmonton 0-for-9 on the advantage in this Final. (The night ended with it 0-for-10.)

Edmonton would tie it 1-1- early in the second when a breakaway left Warren Foegele with a 1-on-1he cashed.

But the Panthers then scored three straight later in the second.

Vladimir Tarasenko made it 2-1 on a feed from Eetu Luostarinen when Skinner was caught out of the crease.

Bennett’s high-shelf goal made it 3-1 off a gorgeous pass from Matthew Tkachuk.

And it was 4-1 when Barkov --fully healed, apparently --deftly converted a wonderful assist by Evan Rodrigues.

Edmonton drew within 4-2 in the third period on a Philip Broberg goal, and made it 4-3 on Roger McLeod’s shot with five minutes left in regulation.

But, for the third straight game, it was just a matter of time before the desperate Oilers would pull their goalie late. It happened with 1:49 left, and Florida held on, with Aaron Ekblad trapping the puck against the board for long, late seconds to snuff the Oilers’ last gasp.

“That’s an absolute skill,” said Maurice of Ekblad’s late board trap.

These are heady days, too, by the way, in the hallways of Chaminade Prep, a high school in St. Louis. Tkachuk went there. So did Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum. They were classmates and friends. Now both are one win away from the Stanley Cup and NBA Finals championship.

“Yeah it’s actually really cool when you think about it. Everyone from St. Louis, especially the kids we grew up with and families and people who know us, they’re pulling for both teams,” says Tkachuk. “It’s super cool to have that support back home for not only myself, but for the Celtics as well. I’m definitely cheering for him.”

Tatum shouted out Tkachuk earlier in the NBA Finals, saying, “I’m a big Matthew fan.”

Tatum has a chance to raise his trophy Friday night, one day before Tkachuk might do the same.

Rare, simultaneous sweeps in the NHL Final and NBA Finals have happened only twice, in 1983 and 1995.

Of course that’s not saying the Dallas Mavericks can’t win four games in a row, or that the Edmonton Oilers can’t still do the same and party like it’s 1942.

It’s just that you wouldn’t want to bet on it.