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Oilers roll past Panthers to force improbable Game 7

The Edmonton Oilers have saved their season with three consecutive victories to push the Stanley Cup Final to Game 7.

Thanks to their 5-1 victory at home over the Florida Panthers on Friday, the Oilers have their chance to claim Edmonton’s first championship since 1990.

“This is what we’ve all played for our whole lives,” Edmonton’s veteran center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said. “An opportunity like this, I’m excited. I want to get it going, for sure, get on the ice Monday.”

Warren Foegele collected one goal and one assist, while Adam Henrique, Zach Hyman, Ryan McLeod and Darnell Nurse scored one goal apiece for the Oilers, who have erased a 3-0 deficit in the best-of-seven championship series and forced a winner-take-all clash on Monday in Florida.

Goaltender Stuart Skinner made 20 saves and also recorded an assist.

Edmonton will attempt to join the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs as the only teams to trail 3-0 in the series and win the Stanley Cup.

The only other team to reach Game 7 in the finals when trailing 3-0 is the 1945 Detroit Red Wings, who coincidentally lost to the Maple Leafs in 1942. Detroit forced a deciding game with three consecutive victories only to lose Game 7 to Toronto.

“It’s been a hell of a story so far, but at the end of the day, we play to win,” Leon Draisaitl said. “This is going to be the hardest game for us. They’re going to come out hard. They’re playing at home. We have to bring our game again.

“I’m really proud of the way we gave ourselves a chance; that’s what it’s all about, but by no means is this going to be easy, a walk in a park. This is going to be the hardest game of the series.”

Aleksander Barkov notched the only goal for the Panthers, who have been outscored 18-5 in the trio of losses. Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 16 shots.

Edmonton staked a 3-0 lead through two periods before Barkov gave the suddenly free-falling Panthers a glimmer, scoring 1:28 into the third period to make it 3-1. However, two empty-net goals quashed those comeback hopes.

For a team that had little hope just over one week ago, the Oilers are on the verge of a dramatic title run.

“Obviously the moment gets bigger as you go further but it’s just another elimination game, right?” Hyman said. “We’re comfortable playing in these games. We’ve proven we can play in them and played in a bunch of them.”

Meanwhile, the Panthers must find a way to regain their early series form. Their mental state must be of concern with the possibility of becoming the first team in more than 80 years to blow a 3-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Final.

“I’m not worried about what it is tonight,” Florida coach Paul Maurice said when asked about his players’ psyche. “You suffered a defeat, you feel it, it hurts. You lick your wounds and we start building that back tomorrow. Who you are tonight means nothing to who you’re going to be in two days from now.”

Where the Panthers will be is in a one-game showdown for the title.

“We’re a confident group,” Florida center Carter Verhaeghe told the team’s website. “They’re here for a reason. We’re here for a reason. It’s the Stanley Cup Final. They’re a really good team and it’s for us to come back and respond next game.”

–Field Level Media

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