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Top Cats: Panthers win their 1st Stanley Cup, top Oilers 2-1 in Game 7

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Top Cats: Panthers win their 1st Stanley Cup, top Oilers 2-1 in Game 7
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Top Cats: Panthers win their 1st Stanley Cup, top Oilers 2-1 in Game 7

2024-06-25 10:56 Last Updated At:11:01

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — There was no collapse. The Florida Panthers are Stanley Cup champions for the first time, and they took about the hardest path possible to the title.

Sam Reinhart and Carter Verhaeghe scored goals, Sergei Bobrovsky made 23 saves and the Panthers beat the Edmonton Oilers 2-1 on Monday night in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. It was the third title-round appearance in Florida's 30-year history; it was swept in 1996 by Colorado and routed 4-1 by Vegas last season.

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Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl (29) and Florida Panthers center Kevin Stenlund (82) go after the puck during the second period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — There was no collapse. The Florida Panthers are Stanley Cup champions for the first time, and they took about the hardest path possible to the title.

Florida Panthers center Sam Reinhart, left, aims the puck for a goal as Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl (29) attempts to defend during the second period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Florida Panthers center Sam Reinhart, left, aims the puck for a goal as Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl (29) attempts to defend during the second period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Brodie, right, and his owner Cliff Brush Jr. attend Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final between the Florida Panthers and the Edmonton Oilers, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. Brush travels all over the world with his Tik Tok-famous Goldendoodle. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Brodie, right, and his owner Cliff Brush Jr. attend Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final between the Florida Panthers and the Edmonton Oilers, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. Brush travels all over the world with his Tik Tok-famous Goldendoodle. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Florida Panthers forward Carter Verhaeghe (23) watches the puck hit the back of the net behind Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner, right, during the second period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final in Sunrise, Fla., Monday, June 24, 2024. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Florida Panthers forward Carter Verhaeghe (23) watches the puck hit the back of the net behind Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner, right, during the second period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final in Sunrise, Fla., Monday, June 24, 2024. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) dumps Florida Panthers forward Eetu Luostarinen (27) against the boards as he turns with the puck during the second period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final in Sunrise, Fla., Monday, June 24, 2024. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) dumps Florida Panthers forward Eetu Luostarinen (27) against the boards as he turns with the puck during the second period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final in Sunrise, Fla., Monday, June 24, 2024. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Edmonton Oilers fans reacts to a Florida Panthers goal as they watch Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final from Edmonton, Alberta, on Monday, June 24, 2024. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Edmonton Oilers fans reacts to a Florida Panthers goal as they watch Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final from Edmonton, Alberta, on Monday, June 24, 2024. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Florida Panthers forward Aleksander Barkov (16) celebrates after his team's second goal as Edmonton Oilers forward Warren Foegele (37) reacts the during the second period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final in Sunrise, Fla., Monday, June 24, 2024. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Florida Panthers forward Aleksander Barkov (16) celebrates after his team's second goal as Edmonton Oilers forward Warren Foegele (37) reacts the during the second period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final in Sunrise, Fla., Monday, June 24, 2024. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Florida Panthers center Carter Verhaeghe (23) passes the puck as Edmonton Oilers center Adam Henrique (19) defends during the first period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Florida Panthers center Carter Verhaeghe (23) passes the puck as Edmonton Oilers center Adam Henrique (19) defends during the first period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Edmonton Oilers forward Derek Ryan (10) and Florida Panthers defenseman Niko Mikkola (77) battle for the puck during the first period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final on Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Edmonton Oilers forward Derek Ryan (10) and Florida Panthers defenseman Niko Mikkola (77) battle for the puck during the first period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final on Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner (74) makes a save on the Florida Panthers during first period game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup finals in Sunrise, Fla., on Monday, June 24, 2024. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner (74) makes a save on the Florida Panthers during first period game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup finals in Sunrise, Fla., on Monday, June 24, 2024. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Edmonton Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch, center, reacts during the first period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final against the Florida Panthers, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Edmonton Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch, center, reacts during the first period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final against the Florida Panthers, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (72) stops a shot on goal during the first period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final against the Edmonton Oilers, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (72) stops a shot on goal during the first period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final against the Edmonton Oilers, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Florida Panthers forward Carter Verhaeghe (23) celebrates his goal with teammate Anton Lundell (15) as Edmonton Oilers defenseman Evan Bouchard (2) skates away during the first period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final on Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Florida Panthers forward Carter Verhaeghe (23) celebrates his goal with teammate Anton Lundell (15) as Edmonton Oilers defenseman Evan Bouchard (2) skates away during the first period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final on Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Florida Panthers teammates celebrate with Carter Verhaeghe (23) after he scored a goal during the first period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final against the Edmonton Oilers, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Florida Panthers teammates celebrate with Carter Verhaeghe (23) after he scored a goal during the first period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final against the Edmonton Oilers, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Florida Panthers forward Carter Verhaeghe (23) celebrates his goal with teammate Anton Lundell (15) after scoring on the Edmonton Oilers during the first period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final on Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Florida Panthers forward Carter Verhaeghe (23) celebrates his goal with teammate Anton Lundell (15) after scoring on the Edmonton Oilers during the first period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final on Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner (74) looks up ice during practice before taking on the Florida Panthers tomorrow night in Game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup finals hockey in Sunrise, Fla., on Sunday, June 23, 2024. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner (74) looks up ice during practice before taking on the Florida Panthers tomorrow night in Game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup finals hockey in Sunrise, Fla., on Sunday, June 23, 2024. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Edmonton Oilers players congratulate center Connor McDavid (97) after McDavid scored a goal during the third period of Game 5 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals against the Florida Panthers, Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. The Oilers defeated the Panthers 5-3. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Edmonton Oilers players congratulate center Connor McDavid (97) after McDavid scored a goal during the third period of Game 5 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals against the Florida Panthers, Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. The Oilers defeated the Panthers 5-3. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Florida Panthers players acknowledge cheers from the fans at the end of the third period of Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals against the Edmonton Oilers, Monday, June 10, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Florida Panthers players acknowledge cheers from the fans at the end of the third period of Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals against the Edmonton Oilers, Monday, June 10, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid watches a drill during practice before taking on the Florida Panthers tomorrow night in Game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup hockey finals in Sunrise, Fla., on Sunday, June 23, 2024. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid watches a drill during practice before taking on the Florida Panthers tomorrow night in Game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup hockey finals in Sunrise, Fla., on Sunday, June 23, 2024. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Florida Panthers' Oliver Ekman-Larsson (91) and Aleksander Barkov (16) celebrate after a goal against the Edmonton Oilers during the third period of Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Friday, June 21, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Florida Panthers' Oliver Ekman-Larsson (91) and Aleksander Barkov (16) celebrate after a goal against the Edmonton Oilers during the third period of Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Friday, June 21, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

This time, they were on the right side of history — after avoiding what would have been a historic collapse. The Panthers won the first three games of the series, then lost the next three and needed a win on Monday to avoid joining the 1942 Detroit Red Wings as the only teams to lose the final after taking a 3-0 lead in the title round.

It wasn’t easy. Not even close. But it's done. It took until the very end for the Panthers to deny Connor McDavid his first title, and Edmonton what would have been its first Cup since 2006.

Mattias Janmark had the goal for Edmonton and Stuart Skinner stopped 19 shots for the Oilers. The Oilers also couldn’t snap Canada’s title drought; it’s been 1993 and counting since a team based in Canada won the Cup.

Montreal was the last to do so, 30 seasons ago. Since then, there have been seven attempts by teams from Canadian-based cities — Vancouver in 1994 and 2011, Calgary in 2004, the Oilers in 2006, Ottawa in 2007 and the Canadiens in 2021 — to win titles, and all were in vain.

South Florida now has one of everything when it comes to titles from the four major pro sports leagues in the U.S. The Miami Dolphins were champions twice, the then-Florida Marlins were champions twice, the Miami Heat have three titles and now the Panthers have joined the party.

Welcome, Stanley. The Panthers have been waiting.

Bobrovsky was as cool as could be, even in the biggest moments. Oilers defenseman Evan Bouchard had a good look from the right circle with about 14 seconds left in the second period; Bobrovsky blocked the shot, and the puck bounced off him and into the air.

No problem. Bobrovsky took his stick and batted the puck away again, more like he was playing morning pickleball at a park than in the biggest game of his life — literally, the last line of defense against the Oilers, and against a piece of history that the Panthers desperately fought to avoid.

Florida led this title series 3-0, then got outscored 18-5 in Games 4, 5 and 6 to waste three chances at winning the Cup. Edmonton was one win away from becoming the second team in NHL history to win the Cup after dropping the first three games; Toronto did it to Detroit in 1942, and no team has pulled off such a comeback since.

They brought in seven-time Grammy winner Alanis Morissette — she was born in Canada and became a dual U.S. citizen in 2005 — to sing the national anthems. Hardly anybody could hear her; the Oilers fans drowned her out for “O Canada,” the Panthers fans did the same for “The Star-Spangled Banner.” They had Panthers legend Roberto Luongo bang the ceremonial bass drum after that; he urged fans to “let’s go” with an extra word in there that needed to be bleeped a few times.

The pregame was raucous. The stage was set.

And the teams came out absolutely ablaze.

The Panthers got the first goal just 4:27 into the game when Verhaeghe waved his stick at the puck that was fired in from the left side by Evan Rodrigues and got just enough to redirect it past Skinner for a 1-0 lead — the first Florida lead since the end of Game 3.

They waited more than a week to be back on top. They stayed there for just over two minutes.

Janmark got behind the Florida defense and beat Bobrovsky over the right shoulder at 6:44, knotting things right back up and ensuring that this Game 7 of the final — like all 17 of the previous such games — wouldn’t end 1-0.

It stayed that way through wild ebbs and flows — the Oilers controlled long stretches, the Panthers would counter, back and forth — until Reinhart scored late in the second to put Florida up 2-1. It capped a crazy sequence, one where Florida defenseman Dmitry Kulikov wound up in the net to help prevent an Edmonton goal seconds before Reinhart beat Skinner. The goal was Reinhart’s 67th of the season, extending his Florida single-season record, and it was up to the Panthers to make it hold up.

Florida was an NHL-best 44-0-3 entering Monday when leading after two periods this season. An NHL-best 85-2-6 in that situation in the two seasons under coach Paul Maurice, too.

AP NHL playoffs: https://apnews.com/hub/stanley-cup and https://www.apnews.com/hub/NHL

Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl (29) and Florida Panthers center Kevin Stenlund (82) go after the puck during the second period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl (29) and Florida Panthers center Kevin Stenlund (82) go after the puck during the second period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Florida Panthers center Sam Reinhart, left, aims the puck for a goal as Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl (29) attempts to defend during the second period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Florida Panthers center Sam Reinhart, left, aims the puck for a goal as Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl (29) attempts to defend during the second period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Brodie, right, and his owner Cliff Brush Jr. attend Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final between the Florida Panthers and the Edmonton Oilers, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. Brush travels all over the world with his Tik Tok-famous Goldendoodle. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Brodie, right, and his owner Cliff Brush Jr. attend Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final between the Florida Panthers and the Edmonton Oilers, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. Brush travels all over the world with his Tik Tok-famous Goldendoodle. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Florida Panthers forward Carter Verhaeghe (23) watches the puck hit the back of the net behind Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner, right, during the second period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final in Sunrise, Fla., Monday, June 24, 2024. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Florida Panthers forward Carter Verhaeghe (23) watches the puck hit the back of the net behind Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner, right, during the second period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final in Sunrise, Fla., Monday, June 24, 2024. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) dumps Florida Panthers forward Eetu Luostarinen (27) against the boards as he turns with the puck during the second period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final in Sunrise, Fla., Monday, June 24, 2024. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) dumps Florida Panthers forward Eetu Luostarinen (27) against the boards as he turns with the puck during the second period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final in Sunrise, Fla., Monday, June 24, 2024. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Edmonton Oilers fans reacts to a Florida Panthers goal as they watch Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final from Edmonton, Alberta, on Monday, June 24, 2024. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Edmonton Oilers fans reacts to a Florida Panthers goal as they watch Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final from Edmonton, Alberta, on Monday, June 24, 2024. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Florida Panthers forward Aleksander Barkov (16) celebrates after his team's second goal as Edmonton Oilers forward Warren Foegele (37) reacts the during the second period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final in Sunrise, Fla., Monday, June 24, 2024. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Florida Panthers forward Aleksander Barkov (16) celebrates after his team's second goal as Edmonton Oilers forward Warren Foegele (37) reacts the during the second period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final in Sunrise, Fla., Monday, June 24, 2024. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Florida Panthers center Carter Verhaeghe (23) passes the puck as Edmonton Oilers center Adam Henrique (19) defends during the first period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Florida Panthers center Carter Verhaeghe (23) passes the puck as Edmonton Oilers center Adam Henrique (19) defends during the first period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Edmonton Oilers forward Derek Ryan (10) and Florida Panthers defenseman Niko Mikkola (77) battle for the puck during the first period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final on Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Edmonton Oilers forward Derek Ryan (10) and Florida Panthers defenseman Niko Mikkola (77) battle for the puck during the first period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final on Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner (74) makes a save on the Florida Panthers during first period game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup finals in Sunrise, Fla., on Monday, June 24, 2024. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner (74) makes a save on the Florida Panthers during first period game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup finals in Sunrise, Fla., on Monday, June 24, 2024. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Edmonton Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch, center, reacts during the first period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final against the Florida Panthers, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Edmonton Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch, center, reacts during the first period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final against the Florida Panthers, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (72) stops a shot on goal during the first period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final against the Edmonton Oilers, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (72) stops a shot on goal during the first period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final against the Edmonton Oilers, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Florida Panthers forward Carter Verhaeghe (23) celebrates his goal with teammate Anton Lundell (15) as Edmonton Oilers defenseman Evan Bouchard (2) skates away during the first period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final on Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Florida Panthers forward Carter Verhaeghe (23) celebrates his goal with teammate Anton Lundell (15) as Edmonton Oilers defenseman Evan Bouchard (2) skates away during the first period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final on Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Florida Panthers teammates celebrate with Carter Verhaeghe (23) after he scored a goal during the first period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final against the Edmonton Oilers, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Florida Panthers teammates celebrate with Carter Verhaeghe (23) after he scored a goal during the first period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final against the Edmonton Oilers, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Florida Panthers forward Carter Verhaeghe (23) celebrates his goal with teammate Anton Lundell (15) after scoring on the Edmonton Oilers during the first period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final on Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Florida Panthers forward Carter Verhaeghe (23) celebrates his goal with teammate Anton Lundell (15) after scoring on the Edmonton Oilers during the first period of Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final on Monday, June 24, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner (74) looks up ice during practice before taking on the Florida Panthers tomorrow night in Game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup finals hockey in Sunrise, Fla., on Sunday, June 23, 2024. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner (74) looks up ice during practice before taking on the Florida Panthers tomorrow night in Game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup finals hockey in Sunrise, Fla., on Sunday, June 23, 2024. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Edmonton Oilers players congratulate center Connor McDavid (97) after McDavid scored a goal during the third period of Game 5 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals against the Florida Panthers, Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. The Oilers defeated the Panthers 5-3. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Edmonton Oilers players congratulate center Connor McDavid (97) after McDavid scored a goal during the third period of Game 5 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals against the Florida Panthers, Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. The Oilers defeated the Panthers 5-3. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Florida Panthers players acknowledge cheers from the fans at the end of the third period of Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals against the Edmonton Oilers, Monday, June 10, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Florida Panthers players acknowledge cheers from the fans at the end of the third period of Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals against the Edmonton Oilers, Monday, June 10, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid watches a drill during practice before taking on the Florida Panthers tomorrow night in Game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup hockey finals in Sunrise, Fla., on Sunday, June 23, 2024. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid watches a drill during practice before taking on the Florida Panthers tomorrow night in Game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup hockey finals in Sunrise, Fla., on Sunday, June 23, 2024. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Florida Panthers' Oliver Ekman-Larsson (91) and Aleksander Barkov (16) celebrate after a goal against the Edmonton Oilers during the third period of Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Friday, June 21, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Florida Panthers' Oliver Ekman-Larsson (91) and Aleksander Barkov (16) celebrate after a goal against the Edmonton Oilers during the third period of Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Friday, June 21, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

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A few short minutes after Trump took the stage, shots rang out

2024-07-14 13:17 Last Updated At:13:21

BUTLER, Pa. (AP) — At 6:02 pm Saturday, to the strains of “God Bless the U.S.A.,” former President Donald Trump took the stage at fairgrounds in Butler, Pennsylvania, waving at the cheering crowd and settling into his regular rally speech under a scorching midsummer sun.

A few short minutes later, Trump pointed to a projection of a chart that showed a spike in illegal border crossings under the man he's running against, President Joe Biden. “That chart's a couple of months old,” Trump told the crowd. “And if you want to see something really sad —”

That's when the shots rang out, at least five. Trump clutched his ear as dark-suited Secret Service agents dashed toward him. He dropped to the ground as the agents yelled, “Get down!” The thousands of rallygoers packed into the field in front of him moved as one, dropping down as silence spread across the grass, punctuated only by an occasional scream.

Moments later, Trump stood as the Secret Service agents crowded around him, covering his body with their own. They tried to usher the former president offstage to his left as blood trickled from his ear. “Wait, wait, wait,” Trump said. He pumped his fist as the crowd cheered, and seemed to mouth the word “fight” before agents hustled him down the stairs and to a waiting black SUV. Trump pumped his fist one more time before getting inside.

The local district attorney said the shooter and one rallygoer were dead. In a statement issued shortly after the attack, which officials say was an apparent assassination attempt, Trump's campaign said he was “fine.”

There were no hints of the horror to come as rallygoers assembled outside the secure Secret Service perimeter earlier that afternoon. Butler is a city of 13,000 located 33 miles north of Pittsburgh in western Pennsylvania, firmly in Trump country. It's the sort of rural Rust Belt area that helped make Trump president in 2016 and almost kept him in office in 2020 — Trump won Butler County by 32 percentage points.

The green grass of the field was slowly covered by a sea of red Make America Great Again hats as the temperature climbed to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Local politicians occasionally spoke as rallygoers patiently waited hours, occasionally breaking into chants of “Trump! Trump! Trump!” At one point, a giant American flag hanging above the stage became tangled, prompting chants of “fix the flag!” until it was correctly unfurled.

Outside the perimeter, there were stands selling food, beverages and Trump paraphernalia, as is common at the rallies. Behind the stage, separated from the field by waist-high metal barriers, another field stretched out, dotted with distant buildings. The crowd perked up when Trump's favorite playlist began, kicking off with The Village People's “YMCA.” Then Trump walked out toward the stage, wearing his familiar red hat, a black suit, white shirt unbuttoned at the neck and no tie.

He smiled and pointed at the crowd as they cheered him, waiting for the Lee Greenwood song to conclude before starting his remarks. “This is a big crowd,” Trump said. “This is a big, big beautiful crowd.”

After name-checking David McCormick, the Republican running against Pennsylvania's Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, and promising to bring him on stage later in the rally, Trump turned to one of his favorite themes. “We have millions and millions of people in our country who should not be here,” he said. “Dangerous people.”

Then he directed the audience to the projected chart of border crossings.

After the shots rang out and Trump was hustled offstage, agents in black uniforms carrying rifles, the agency's Counter-Assault team, flooded the stage. The crowd stayed down with the exception of one clutch of people standing near the left edge of the perimeter, near the sounds of gunfire.

Rico Elmore, vice chairman of the Beaver County Republican Party, was sitting in a section for special guests, facing Trump, when he heard what sounded like firecrackers. “So, everyone hesitated — and it was like, no, these are actual shots," he said in an interview. "So I yelled, ‘Get down!’”

Elmore heard someone from his left calling for a medic. While Elmore isn’t a medic, he knows first aid and CPR from his time in the military. He jumped a barricade, but when he reached the person, Elmore saw he had been shot in the head. Elmore said he held the victim’s head, but it was too late.

"I mean, it was a horror,” Elmore said.

The victim has not been identified.

Even as Trump was driven off, rallygoers stayed low. Some had heard the bullets ricocheting off the grandstand, severing a hydraulic line connecting to the speakers, which began to topple. Others quickly called family or looked on their phones to find out what had happened to the former president.

“Is he all right?” people began to ask. “Is he OK?”

Eventually, people began to trickle out. A small group of about a half-dozen stopped at the fenced area holding the media. “It's all your fault!” they yelled.

Police and then the Secret Service ushered everyone out. An hour after the shooting the vast field was declared a crime scene, littered with empty plastic water bottles and soggy cardboard containers that once held cheese fries.

Associated Press writer Nicholas Riccardi in Denver and Leah Askarinam in Washington contributed to this report.

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump gestures as he is surrounded by U.S. Secret Service agents as he leaves the stage at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump gestures as he is surrounded by U.S. Secret Service agents as he leaves the stage at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

A campaign rally site for Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is empty and littered with debris Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

A campaign rally site for Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is empty and littered with debris Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump gestures as he is surrounded by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump gestures as he is surrounded by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surrounded by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surrounded by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

People react during a campaign rally with Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

People react during a campaign rally with Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surround by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surround by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is moved from the stage at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is moved from the stage at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is helped off the stage at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., on Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is helped off the stage at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., on Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surrounded by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surrounded by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

People hug after Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump was helped off the stage at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

People hug after Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump was helped off the stage at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is helped off the stage at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., on Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is helped off the stage at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., on Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Law enforcement officers gather at campaign rally site for Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is empty Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. Trump's campaign said in a statement that the former president was "fine" after a shooting at his rally in Butler (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Law enforcement officers gather at campaign rally site for Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is empty Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. Trump's campaign said in a statement that the former president was "fine" after a shooting at his rally in Butler (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

U.S. Secret Service agents surround the stage as other agents cover Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

U.S. Secret Service agents surround the stage as other agents cover Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Police snipers return fire after shots were fired while Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump was speaking at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., on Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Police snipers return fire after shots were fired while Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump was speaking at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., on Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surrounded by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surrounded by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is covered by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is covered by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is helped off the stage at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is helped off the stage at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

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