Oilers on brink of being swept in Stanley Cup Final: Mistakes, Panthers' excellence to blame

As the Edmonton Oilers face the daunting task of overcoming a 3-0 series deficit in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final, they can look to the regular season.

They had a 16-game winning streak and streaks of eight and five games, more than enough to rally and capture their first title since 1990.

"When things go well, we can really turn it up," Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch said after a 4-3 loss to the Florida Panthers in Game 3.

Of course, none of the games in those streaks involved the Panthers.

Only four NHL teams have won a series they trailed 3-0 and just one in the Stanley Cup Final. Here's why the Oilers find themselves on the verge of being the first team swept in the final since 1998:

Game 3: Florida Panthers right wing Vladimir Tarasenko (10) scores against Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner (74) in the second period.
Game 3: Florida Panthers right wing Vladimir Tarasenko (10) scores against Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner (74) in the second period.

Their top players have not scored

The Oilers have no goals in the series from Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Zach Hyman, who combined for 127 in the regular season and 29 in the first three rounds.

Welcome to Panthers hockey. Florida's forechecking scheme disrupts offensive attacks. The Panthers held Tampa's Nikita Kucherov to no goals, Boston's David Pastrnak to one and the New York Rangers' Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider to a combined two.

Florida's style wears down teams, which is why the Panthers have been so effective in the third period until the Oilers scored twice on Thursday.

Sergei Bobrovsky is outplaying Stuart Skinner

The Oilers broke through the Panthers' defense in Game 1, but Bobrovsky had a 32-save shutout. He stopped another 32 shots on Thursday, including several big ones after the Oilers tied the game. He has allowed only one bad goal - on Mattias Ekholm's Game 2 shot that snuck between his legs.

Bobrovsky does well blocking the bottom of the net. The Oilers need to do more of what to led to Game 3 goals: a high shot, a fortunate bounce off a Panthers defenseman and a deflection.

As well as Skinner played against Vancouver and Dallas after sitting out two second-round games in a reset, he has allowed nine goals on 68 shots in the final. He misplayed the puck behind his net in Game 3, leading to a go-ahead goal by Vladimir Tarasenko.

"I tried to play the puck," he said. "I don’t know if it bounced it over me. … They got the puck, passed it out front. I tried to get that one as well and tried to make the save and all of those three things did not work."

The Panthers have shut down the Oilers' power play

They are perfect on 10 Oilers man-advantages. Again, that's Panthers hockey. They have allowed only six power-play goals all playoffs. Bobrovsky plays a role in that, too. The Oilers' power play had clicked at 37.3% heading into the final. That's an important source of goals missing.

The Panthers pounce on mistakes

Sam Bennett won a puck battle before one of Evan Rodrigues' Game 1 goals. Rodrigues scored in Game 2 after an Evan Bouchard giveaway. Selke Trophy winner Aleksander Barkov stole the puck from Bouchard before Florida's first goal on Thursday. Darnell Nurse had the puck stolen from him before the third goal. The fourth goal was scored on a 2-on-1 break. Florida is opportunistic and has the skill to make you pay for what Skinner called "silly mistakes."

The Panthers are deeper than the banged-up Oilers

The Panthers couldn't overcome injuries when losing in last year's final. But they're healthier now and deeper. They added three defensemen in the offseason to cope with the early season absences of Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour. With those two back, Florida has one of the NHL's best blue lines. Trade deadline acquisition Tarasenko, a former Stanley Cup winner with nearly 300 goals, is playing on the third line. Free agent signee Rodrigues can move up and down the lineup as needed.

The Oilers have high-end talent but can't match the Panthers' depth. And Evander Kane was rendered ineffective by an injury before he sat out Game 3. Nurse played fewer than five minutes in Game 2 because of an injury. And in typical playoff tradition, other injuries won't be known until the series is over.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Stanley Cup Finals: Why Edmonton Oilers trail 3-0 to Florida Panthers