Oilers’ Perry gets 4th chance in 5 years to win Stanley Cup he last hoisted 17 years ago

Corey Perry won his first Stanley Cup in his rookie season with the Anaheim Ducks. Seventeen years later, he’s still looking for ring No. 2.

It’s not for lack of trying. As a veteran member of the Edmonton Oilers, he’s about to play in his fourth Cup final in the last five years.

He’s lost it as a member of the Dallas Stars, Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning. In fact, the “Perry Curse” is something you can find online easily.

“I never had the opportunity to play for a Stanley Cup [again] until five years ago,” said Perry. “So, there was 12 years, 13 years, in between. You never really know if you’re going to get back there. Every year goes by and you’re out in the first round, second round, third round. And you’re just like, ‘Ugh, maybe next year.’ And they just keep adding up.”

Perry continues his quest for his second Cup when the Oilers face the Florida Panthers in the Stanley Cup final, starting Saturday.

Perry has lost three Cup finals in the last half-decade, but he isn’t alone on the “would a, should a, coulda list.” Trade deadline acquisition Adam Henrique, penalty-killing ace Mattias Janmark and defensive stalwart Mattias Ekholm have all been on the losing ends of the NHL finals in the past. And they hope that experience can drive them to take the Oilers’ Cup quest that one step further in 2024.

Ekholm and his Predators teammates lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2017. He warned that, if players get lost in the spectacle of it all, the series can be over awfully fast. He felt it took the Predators too long to remember that their most important job was to play hockey.

“Obviously, we got off to a rough start,” Ekholm recalled. “We lost both on the road, and it was almost like it took a game and a half when we figured out that `oh, we have to play hockey, too?’ It’s not just a big all-star game or a big showcase.”

WATCH | Oilers headed to Cup final for first time since 2006:

Edmonton Oilers headed to Stanley Cup final

The Edmonton Oilers beat the Dallas Stars 2-1 to earn a spot in the Stanley Cup final, where they will battle to become the first Canadian team to hoist the trophy in 31 years.

Ekholm said the lesson he learned is that a final brings a lot of distractions, including media requests “left and right.” There’s almost a full week between the conference finals and the Stanley Cup final, so there’s a chance this year to have some off days and better deal with the media frenzy.

“When it comes 8 p.m. Eastern on Saturday night, we have to be dialled in and ready to go.”

‘A lot emotions’

Janmark was in the Edmonton COVID bubble with the Dallas Stars when they lost the 2020 final to the Lightning. Even with no fans in the building, he said the emotions and distractions can get the better of a player.

“There’s a lot of emotions involved, especially when you win the conference final. You get the trophy and whatnot, the hats and everything,” he said,

“I was in the bubble so we kind of got thrust into the final right away. Now we’ve got some time to handle it.”

For Perry, this will be the first time he can truly savour what it’s like to be on a Canadian team in the Cup final. Sure, he was with the Habs in 2021, when they came back from 3-1 deficit in the first round against Toronto, then went on a run, only to lose to Tampa Bay. But COVID had a major impact on the season, with games played in empty or nearly empty arenas.

“When I was in Montreal, it was COVID. I think we had 3,000 or 4,000 fans, that was it in a place like the Bell Centre. It’s not quite the same. It’s a different atmosphere, a different animal, when you have fans.”

Like Perry, Henrique was a rookie when he got to his first Stanley Cup final. Unlike Perry, he didn’t win in his first NHL campaign — he was part of a New Jersey Devils team that lost to the Los Angeles Kings in 2012.

He said, at the time, he was naive about just how hard it is to get to a Cup final.

“You think we’ll just be in the playoffs next year and hopefully get back here and get another opportunity,” Henrique said. “But that doesn’t happen. There’s a lot that goes in behind the scenes and with contract situations. There is so much that changes team to team, every single year.

“To be here and go on a run has been a lot of fun.”

The Panthers, of course, lost the 2023 final to Vegas. It was not a close series. The Golden Knights won it in five, and three of the four wins were blowouts. Will Florida be able to take that experience forward?

Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch was asked about it.

“Experience is good,” said Knoblauch. “I don’t know how much experience is beneficial. You can ask the Buffalo Bills how important Super Bowl experience is.”

WATCH | Oilers have a shot at Stanley Cup and Canadians are pumped:

The Oilers have a shot at the Stanley Cup and Canadians are pumped

It’s been more than 30 years since a Canadian NHL team hoisted the Stanley Cup, but the Edmonton Oilers have a chance to change that. CBC’s Nick Purdon asked hockey fans about what a Canadian win would mean to them — even if they’re not Oilers fans.

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