Edmonton fans down as Oilers fall to Panthers in Game 7

Canada's Stanley Cup drought continues.

The Edmonton Oilers fell short of a comeback for the ages, losing Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final 2-1 to the Florida Panthers, which earned its first Cup — and redeemed its runners-up finish from last season.

"It's tough to see," said Mitch Bittroff from inside Rogers Place after the game.

"It's disappointing, but you have to be proud of the team at the same time. Coming back from where the season started, who could have thought we'd make it here?"

The Oilers, which entered the 2023-24 season with a Cup-or-bust mentality, finished one win away from a historic comeback and becoming the first Canadian team since the 1993 Montreal Canadiens to hoist the Cup.

Florida pounced early, winning the final's first three games, but the Oilers stormed back, stringing several strong performances together to knot the best-of-seven series 3-3.

Enthusiasm in Oilers nation reached a fever pitch during the streak. After Edmonton's Game 6 victory, fans cheered well into the night, eager for the team's first title since 1990.

Thousands filled downtown Edmonton to watch the game Monday. Lineups to get into watch parties snaked around buildings fans, clad in orange and blue. The Edmonton Police Service even asked the public to stay away from the Rogers Place area unless they were attending a watch party, because the fan parks reached capacity.

But after the final horn of Game 7, the city's core was quiet as fans dissipated in disappointment and frustration.

Edmonton captain Connor McDavid, who produced 42 points this post-season, including a record number of assists (34), still won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the playoffs.

Only five other players have received the award in a losing effort since it was first presented in 1965.

"It sucks," McDavid said after the game.

The Oilers tried to join the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs as the only teams to fall behind 3-0 in the final and lift the Cup. Instead, they join the 1945 Detroit Red Wings as the only teams to lose the first three games, come back in the series, then lose Game 7.

"We gave it everything," said Oilers winger Zach Hyman, who scored 16 goals throughout the post-season — the most of any player.

"It's heartbreaking. I'm really proud of everybody for getting to this point. But it's something that's going to always stick with you."

An Edmonton Oilers fan kneels in the Ice District following the team’s 2-1 loss against the Florida Panthers in Game 7 on Monday, June 24, 2024.
An Edmonton Oilers fan kneels in the Ice District following the team’s 2-1 loss against the Florida Panthers in Game 7. (Timon Johnson/CBC)

Back in Edmonton, some fans expressed admiration for the team and its resiliency and how the run rallied the community together.

"They brought so much pride to the city," said Nykala Shone, who was inside Rogers Place to watch Game 7.

Many piled onto the Oilers' bandwagon this post-season, but some, like Leah Paterson, are brand new hockey fans.

"I'm totally converted," Paterson said, adding that the spirit and unity was infectious.

"It's something so special and I don't think you can find that in many other places."

Record 50/50

The Oilers' 50/50 raffle, the largest in pro sports, reached more than $21.6 million as of 10 p.m. MT Monday. Half of the main jackpot goes to the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation.

The playoff bonus jackpot was nearly $7.8 million at that time.

The main jackpot draw will occur after the final; the draw for the bonus jackpot is June 26 at 11:59 a.m. MT.