Connor McDavid dominates as Oilers win Stanley Cup finals Game 5

SUNRISE, Fla. — Connor McDavid’s words after his Edmonton Oilers routed the Florida Panthers in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals became a rallying cry.

“We have to go to Florida,” he said, “do a job and drag them back to Alberta.”

The Oilers did just that with a 5-3 win in Game 5 on Tuesday night at Amerant Bank Arena. It wasn’t as dominant as Saturday’s 8-1 demolition, but they did more than enough — led by McDavid’s two goals and two assists — to stay alive. They need two more wins to achieve Stanley Cup glory, but they’ll be back on home ice Friday to try to secure the first.

The Oilers led 3-0 and 4-1 in the second period but had to fend off a furious comeback attempt by the Panthers, who pulled within a goal early in the third. Stuart Skinner made 29 saves for the Oilers. Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 19 shots for Florida.

“It was a total effort from everybody,” McDavid said. “Special teams obviously were great. Penalty kill, there’s nothing else to really say. They’ve been great. [Connor Brown] scores a massive goal there to kind of settle us in. Power play got going and Stu was great. Five-on-five, we just did enough. It was a total team effort, top to bottom.”

The Panthers started Game 5 like a team intent on claiming its first Stanley Cup title on home ice, but Skinner’s prowess carried over from Game 4, beginning with a robbery of Aaron Ekblad and continuing during several intense, high-pressure shifts by Florida.

A penalty against Brett Kulak just 4:47 in felt as though it would provide the release the home crowd was waiting for. Instead, midway through the power play, Brown stole the puck at the blue line and beat Bobrovsky with a patient backhander. It was the second game in a row that Edmonton opened the scoring with a shorthanded tally.

“The difference tonight, special teams,” Oilers Coach Kris Knoblauch said. “I think we were plus-3 tonight on the special teams goals. That definitely helps our team.”

After Brown’s tally, the Panthers recorded just one more shot on goal in the remaining 14:30 of the period. And Niko Mikkola was whistled for interference at the horn, giving the Oilers a power play to begin the second period.

Edmonton’s vaunted power play had yet to click into gear in the finals — its lone power-play tally came on a five-on-three in Game 4 — and for 1 minute 58 seconds, it appeared that trend would continue. But a point shot by Evan Bouchard (three assists) deflected off Zach Hyman at the front of the net and past Bobrovsky with two seconds left on the man advantage, putting the Oilers up 2-0.

McDavid made it 3-0 with a bank shot off Bobrovsky just over three minutes later, leaving the Panthers reeling — and the probability of another 2,500-mile flight to Alberta looming large.

Matthew Tkachuk got Florida on the board 1:53 later with a quick-release finish over Skinner after Evan Rodrigues stole the puck along the boards and fed it to Tkachuk with a head of steam low in the zone.

But a hooking penalty on Kyle Okposo at 10:02 put Edmonton’s newly confident power play back to work, and McDavid did what he does best off the rush, turning the Panthers inside-out as he drove toward the net and dished to Corey Perry for a tap-in at 11:54.

Rodrigues answered 14 seconds later with his fourth goal of the series, but Florida couldn’t draw any closer through 40 minutes despite a strong push in the latter half of the period.

That push carried into the third, and the Panthers needed just 4:04 to draw within a goal. Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, playing on this stage for the first time in the 14th year of his NHL career, found the net off a feed from Tkachuk to fuel a hopeful crowd.

Brown said the Oilers were ready for the challenge.

“We’re comfortable with one-goal games,” he said. “… I think we showed composure. They scored, they stung us in the first five minutes there. We stayed composed. … I think we’re showing our maturity. We’re showing our character as the season goes on. Our confidence and our belief is growing.”

The crowd’s hope started to wear thin as the period stretched on without an equalizer, and the tension ratcheted up when Dmitry Kulikov was penalized for tripping, sending the Oilers back to the power play with 7:32 remaining.

Florida killed that penalty, but having to do so shaved two minutes off the time available for a comeback. The Panthers pulled Bobrovsky for an extra attacker with just over 2:30 left, and McDavid hit the empty net with 17.3 seconds left to do exactly what he wanted: drag the series back to Alberta. The goal gave McDavid his 42nd point of the postseason — and his second consecutive four-point game.

“I love playing in the playoffs,” McDavid said. “I love playing with this group. It’s been a fun ride and we’re glad it’s going to go one more day. But that’s all we’ve earned here: Another day, another flight. We’ll be ready to go in Edmonton on Friday.”

The odds remain stacked against the Oilers, even as they return home for Game 6 and carry a growing belief with them. But the odds were stacked against Edmonton early in the season, too, when a slow start led to a coaching change and required a steady climb up the standings throughout the season just to get into the playoffs.

Brown has repeated throughout the series that he believes the Oilers are at their best with their backs against the wall. Their situation is still perilous, but they’re not bothered by it.

“I know a lot of guys counted us out. We’ve been counted out a lot through the playoffs, regular season, whatever,” Knoblauch said. “It doesn’t faze the group in there. They’ve got a lot of belief — a lot of belief — and a lot of just enjoying every extra day, because we were counted out a long time ago, and we’re still here playing hockey in June. We’re going back to Edmonton for Game 6. There’s a lot to smile about.”

Originally Appeared Here

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