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Edmonton Oilers beat the Florida Panthers 5-1 to force a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final

AP

EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) Connor McDavid was held without a point, so Leon Draisaitl and the Edmonton Oilers‘ other top players stepped up to put them one win from the Stanley Cup.

Draisaitl made his first major impact in the final by setting up Warren Foegele’s early goal, Adam Henrique and Zach Hyman scored in the second period and the Oilers forced a Game 7 by beating the Florida Panthers 5-1 in Game 6 on Friday night.

“At the end of the day, we play to win and this is going to be the hardest game for us,” Draisaitl said. “We have to bring our game again.”

They are the first team to tie the final after falling behind 3-0 in the series since the Detroit Red Wings in 1945. The Oilers have the chance Monday night in Sunrise to join the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs as the only NHL teams to come all the way back from that deficit to hoist the Stanley Cup.

“There was an unshakable belief,” Hyman said. “No matter what happened throughout the year, we always believed we could pull through. No matter how dire the circumstances, we think we have a chance. It was a long season facing adversity which prepared us. The next one will be the hardest. It feels unbelievable to do it in front of this crowd. To have a chance to win now, this is our first opportunity to win.”

The opportunity to make hockey history and end Canada’s three-decade-long Cup drought exists only after McDavid’s heroics with four points apiece in Games 4 and 5 to take the Oilers from the brink to belief. This was the first time in his nine-year career they’ve won a game in which he did not have a point or put a shot on net.

Draisaitl, his longtime running mate from Germany who has also been league MVP and considered among the best players in the world, lit the spark in Game 5 after being largely ineffective against the Panthers.

“He’s a horse,” defenseman Darnell Nurse said. “He’s always showing up at the biggest moments. You look at all his playoff performances, he’s one of the best to ever do it.”

Draisaitl got the puck at center ice, skated around and through Florida defenders and put the puck on the tape of Foegele’s stick for a tap-in that Sergei Bobrovsky had nearly no chance of stopping. That, of course, did not stop the fired up sellout crowd of 18,000-plus from mockingly chanting, “Ser-gei! Ser-gei!” starting before the anthems and continually throughout the night.

The goalie everyone calls “Bob” was hardly to blame, though, with mistakes in front of him also contributing to the 2-on-1 rush that ended with Henrique beating Bobrovsky off a 2-on-1 rush off a perfect pass from Mattias Janmark. The Panthers in front of their goaltender looked tight and timid and unlike the juggernaut that reached the final for a second consecutive year and won the first three games to move to the verge of the first title in franchise history.

“We have one game to go,” Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov said. “We were ready right from the start to play a seven-game series, and nothing changes now. We got up three, and they played three good games. Now it’s up to us to win at home.”

Florida had just six shots on net midway through the game and finished with 21. Continuing a trend of being there when the Oilers need him the most, Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner made timely saves to stymie the Panthers, allowing just a goal to Aleksander Barkov less than 90 seconds into the third period.

“He’s been lights out when we’ve needed him,” Janmark said of Skinner.

The first time Barkov got the puck past him, 10 seconds after Henrique scored, the goal came off the board when Edmonton coach Kris Knoblauch successfully challenged for offside. A lengthy review found Sam Reinhart entered the offensive zone perhaps an inch or less before the puck, the announcement of which was followed by a roar from fans.

“I actually didn’t think it was that close,” Knoblauch said. “In my mind, it was definitely offside.”

That was not the loudest Rogers Place got, and there were plenty of candidates for that distinction. The decibel meter shown on video screens reached 113.8 when the Oilers stepped on to the ice to the tune of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.”

It might have approached that noise level when Ryan McLeod and Nurse scored empty-netters in the final minutes, setting off chants of “We want the Cup!” “We want the Cup!” and a wild celebration at the viewing party outside.

That was the fever pitch of a city that was awash in a sea of blue and orange downtown in the hours before puck drop. Friday might as well have been a holiday in Edmonton, the home of nearly a million people now fully able to let themselves dream of the Oilers adding another white championship banner to the rafters – and do so in the most improbable way possible.

“We’re just excited to keep our season going,” McDavid said. “That’s what it’s been about. One game at a time, one day at a time. Looking forward to the next one.”

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

Copyright 2024 STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

123T
Florida3-30011
Edmonton3-31225
  • Rogers PlaceEdmonton
  • Game 6series tied 3-3

STARS OF THE GAME

Panthers

Oilers

SKATERSGA+/-SOG
A. Barkov C10-23
S. Bennett C00-41
N. Cousins C0001
A. Ekblad D00-20
O. Ekman-Larsson D0002
G. Forsling D00-33
D. Kulikov D0102
R. Lomberg LW0001
A. Lundell C0002
E. Luostarinen C0000
N. Mikkola D0000
B. Montour D00-11
S. Reinhart C00-31
E. Rodrigues C00-21
K. Stenlund C0000
V. Tarasenko RW0001
M. Tkachuk LW00-31
C. Verhaeghe C01-21
SKATERSGA+/-SOG
E. Bouchard D0023
P. Broberg D0131
C. Brown C0010
C. Ceci D0001
L. Draisaitl C0113
M. Ekholm D0121
W. Foegele LW1111
A. Henrique C1021
D. Holloway C0020
Z. Hyman C1011
M. Janmark C0122
B. Kulak D01-11
C. McDavid C0010
R. McLeod C1014
R. Nugent-Hopkins C0111
D. Nurse D1021
C. Perry RW0000
D. Ryan C00-10
GOALIESSAGASVSV%TOI
S. Bobrovsky193160.84259:38
GOALIESSAGASVSV%TOI
S. Skinner211200.95260:00