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‘This isn’t The Oprah Winfrey Show’: Panthers and Oilers react to the Draisaitl-Barkov hit



SUNRISE, Fla. — Paul Maurice didn’t look like a coach whose team is two wins away from its first Stanley Cup in franchise history and his first since becoming a head coach in 1995.

With a stern, perturbed expression and glassy eyes after a 4-1 pounding of the Edmonton Oilers to take a 2-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final, the Florida Panthers’ coach seemed like he was holding back in telling the assembled media what he really thought of Leon Draisaitl’s third-period check that injured captain Aleksander Barkov.

“This isn’t ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show,’” Maurice said when asked how he felt about the hit. “My feelings don’t matter.”

Barkov was hurt with 9:28 left in the third period when Draisaitl, the Oilers’ star, went in for a check, left his feet and hit Barkov in the jaw with his right forearm. The Panthers’ two-time Selke Trophy winner fell to the ice and had to be assisted by trainers. At one point, he tried to get up and fell to the ice again, looking dazed.

The referees initially didn’t call a penalty. They huddled with the linesmen and ultimately assessed a two-minute minor to Draisaitl for roughing. On the ensuing power play, Evan Rodrigues scored his second goal of the period for a two-goal lead to snap the Oilers’ streak of 34 successful kills in a 12-game stretch.

Barkov didn’t return. Maurice didn’t have an update on Barkov after the game and indicated that the Panthers weren’t keeping him out for precautionary reasons.

“There was 9:28 on the clock, I believe, in a 2-1 game,” Maurice said tersely. “I’m not holding him (out).”

George Parros, the head of the NHL’s Department of Player Safety, was in attendance, and it’ll be interesting to see if he hits Draisaitl, who is tied for second with teammate Evan Bouchard in playoff scoring with 28 points, with supplemental discipline.

“The league looks at everything,” Maurice said. “They’ll look at every hit.”

In a one-sided game in which the Oilers had seven shots through two periods, Edmonton players lost their composure several times in the waning minutes after Rodrigues’ power-play goal.

Draisaitl said this was not that.

“I don’t think that’s frustration. It was just a hit,” Draisaitl said. “I don’t think there’s anything dirty about it. Maybe I got him a little high. Certainly not with intent to injure, though, or anything like that.”

“I didn’t think so,” Oilers captain Connor McDavid said when asked if the hit was made out of frustration. “I thought it was part of the game.”

It was clear that the Panthers instructed their players not to expound or voice opinions on the hit or injury. One by one, Panthers players after the game said they didn’t see the hit or declined comment beyond the normal, “You never want to see your captain go down,” as Rodrigues said.

“No comment,” Vladimir Tarasenko said.

“It goes so fast, I didn’t really see it, but I hope he’s OK, and I hope he’s feeling better,” Anton Lundell said.

“I didn’t really get a good look at it,” Kyle Okposo said.

“I have no response or comment on that,” Matthew Tkachuk said.

Barkov, who is tied for the team lead with 19 points in the postseason and is the Panthers’ all-time leading playoff scorer, is nearing the end of an exceptional playoffs in which he has shut down top stars on the Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins and New York Rangers. In two Final games, Draisaitl, McDavid and Zach Hyman have no goals.

“He’s our captain,” Lundell said. “We never want to miss him, but we hope it’s going to be OK. We hope he’s going to be back. We love him and hope he’s coming back even stronger.”

The Panthers have outscored opponents 28-11 in the third period in 19 playoff games.

Barkov is a big reason why.

“I think when your captain is a Selke Trophy winner — and you heard what the best player in the world (Wayne Gretzky) said about him the other day — it’s kind of hard for anybody else to not take the defensive side of the puck seriously,” Okposo said. “So it starts with him. It starts with his commitment to defense, and he’s just such a phenomenal player and leader for us.

“And then you have just our style in how we play. It really is tailored to our team and tailored to how we skate and how we play, and there’s just total buy-in because we know it works. And that’s something that you have to have on a successful team, and we definitely have it here.”

(Photo of Aleksander Barkov getting checked by a trainer: Peter Joneleit / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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