The Florida Panthers are just hours away from playing in their second-ever Stanley Cup Final. Game 1 against the Vegas Golden Knights is scheduled for 8:00 PM EST on Saturday.
In their 30-year history, the Florida Panthers have only been past the second round of the playoffs twice. Both times, they were able to advance to the Stanley Cup Final. Ahead of Game 1 tonight, let's look at the last time the Florida Panthers played in the Final, back in 1996.
Florida worked hard to get the 1996 Final, needing 18 games to do so.
In the first round, the fourth-seeded Panthers knocked off the Boston Bruins in five games before eventually getting past the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins to reach the Final.
In the final, against the soon-to-be dynasty Colorado Avalanche, their luck had completely run out.
Florida actually got out to a 1-0 lead in Game 1, one of only two leads they held in the entire series. Current New Jersey Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald put the Cats ahead in the final minutes of the first period. In the second, the Avalanche took over, scoring three straight goals before holding on for a scoreless third and taking a 1-0 series lead.
Legendary goaltender Patrick Roy only needed to make 25 saves in the win.
Game 2 was far worse for the Florida Panthers. Colorado jumped out to an early 1-0 lead and despite Stu Barnes tying the game soon after, the Avs took a 4-1 lead into the first intermission. Colorado added three in the second and one in the third to complete a dominant 8-1 performance at home.
When the series shifted back to Florida, the Panthers were a much better team.
In Game 3, the Panthers answered an early Avs goal with two of their own to take a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes. However, despite the Panthers putting loads of pressure on Roy in the Colorado end, the Avalanche took only three minutes in the second to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead that they would not relinquish.
Roy made 32 saves and the Avalanche had a commanding 3-0 series lead.
Florida Panthers get swept in first and only Stanley Cup Final appearance
Game 4 was a goaltending duel. Florida came out in a full defensive structure, looking to hold off the Avs and win a low-scoring game. The game was certainly low scoring, heading to the first, second, and third overtime still sitting at 0-0.
4:31 into the third overtime, Uwe Krupp finally put a puck past a netminder, giving the Avalanche the sweep and the first Stanley Cup to Colorado.
Patrick Roy stopped all 63 shots in Game 4 and 147 of the 151 total shots faced in the series. The Avalanche outscored Florida 15-4 in four games.
The 2023 Stanley Cup Final between the Florida Panthers and Vegas Golden Knights starts Saturday night.