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McDavid, Draisaitl and Oilers hope to avoid Stanley Cup frustration


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Leon Draisaitl is nothing if not self-aware. Before the Stanley Cup Final, the versatile Edmonton Oilers forward acknowledged he's a good hockey player and has a special skillset that makes him that way.

The day after he and Connor McDavid lost their first foray into the final, he had similar things to say about Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who stymied Draisaitl and his teammates in a 32-save shutout.

“He’s going to make some good saves,” Draisaitl said. “He’s a good goalie, and he’s going to make some big-time saves — and knowing that is important.”

Knowledge is power, but that comes with the trappings of “Bob” getting into the Oilers heads. Their biggest challenge for Game 2 on Monday night also may be the key to evening the series: not letting the frustration get to them, a process that starts with two of the NHL's best players leading the way.

“We’re always going to get our looks; we’re always going to get our chances,” Draisaitl said Sunday. “(It's about) not gripping our sticks too tight but continuing to play loose and continuing to play our game.”

Edmonton relies heavily on McDavid and Draisaitl, who combined for 10 shots in Game 1 on Saturday night. There's a reason for that: One of them has won the Hart Trophy as league MVP in four of the past seven seasons.

“You become desensitized to how good those two players are, and I understand why," Panthers coach Paul Maurice said. "You see it every night, and they are so dynamic and so special, but after a while you get used to it to the point that you’ll start saying, ‘Why doesn’t it happen every shift?’ Well, it almost does. They are truly, truly special players because of all aspects of the game. You could do all things right and still not stop them.”

Or, like in Game 1, they can do just about everything right and still not score. Goalies can have that effect, and Bobrovsky was kryptonite for not only McDavid and Draisaitl but the rest of the Oilers, too.

McDavid afterward wondered if outshooting Florida 32-18 and losing was the hockey gods getting back at them for the Western Conference Final clincher against Dallas in which Edmonton was outplayed but still came out on the winning end. Rather than give Bobrovsky too much credit, he made it about finding a way to break through and overcome some bad luck.

“Certainly like to bear down and find a way to get one,” McDavid said. “Just make one more play — something. Find something that we that weren’t able to find.”

What the Oilers would love to find is a split of the first two games in Sunrise, which would effectively make this series a best-of-five with the next two in front of their rabid fans who have not witnessed a final in person in nearly two decades.

What it will take is scoring on a goaltender who looked like he had a force field around the net, and winger Connor Brown expects McDavid and Draisaitl to set the tone in that department.

"There’s no panic in our room right now," Brown said. "We feel like we had a great process last game. Obviously Bob came up with some big saves but just keep at it and keep pounding at the door and good things will happen.”


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