NHL: Stanley Cup Final Game 5 Recap: McDavid drags Panthers back to Alberta; Oilers stay alive

There are moments in sports where you remember the performance of a superstar in the finest of moments. It could be Willie Mays’s catch in 1954, LeBron against Golden State in 2016, or Tom Brady’s comeback win against Atlanta, and then there is Connor McDavid…With his Oilers facing elimination in the Stanley Cup Final, McDavid again provided another four-point night to force a Game 6 on Friday night.

It was McDavid who said after Game 4’s win, “We’ve got to go to Florida, do a job and drag them back to Alberta.” The Oilers did just that in a thrilling 5-3 win over the Panthers.

The buildup for the game saw something the Florida franchise had yet to have an opportunity at, and that was a Stanley Cup championship won at home. The Panthers had an all-time record of 1-8 in the Stanley Cup Final coming into this year’s edition, the ticket prices for Game 5 understandably were sky high.

The Panthers, with visions of a Stanley Cup title after missing the opportunity in Game 4 in Edmonton, had intentions of getting it done before the home crowd. Matthew Tkachuk forward said before the game, “”We have a chance to go capture the biggest goal of our lives tonight. And we’re gonna go do that.”

Game 1 began with the Panthers on the power play early, and just like Game 4 oddly enough, it was the Oilers who capitalized. Connor Brown sprung free on a breakaway and saddled a backhander past the blocker side of Panthers netminder Sergei Bobrovsky at 5:30 of the first period to give the Oilers back-to-back games with shorthanded goals.

At the end of period one, the Oilers maintained a 1-0 lead, but the second period would be a much different story.

Edmonton began the second period on a power play and with two seconds left on the man advantage, Evan Bouchard’s blast from near the blueline glanced off Zach Hyman and in the net to give the Oilers a 2-0 lead.

Three minutes and two seconds later, Warren Foegele with the Oilers peeling back defensively raced into the Panthers end to wind up with the puck, he dished to Connor McDavid who took a wrist shot that sneaked past Bobrovsky and the Oilers led 3-1.

Minutes later, the Panthers pranced on a gift.

A turnover in the Edmonton end allowed Matthew Tkachuk to scorch a shot by Oilers netminder Stuart Skinner and nearly two minutes after the Oilers took a three-goal lead, the deficit was cut to one.

But the Oil Machine would go to work on a power play.

Connor McDavid in the dying seconds of an Oiler power play stick handled through three Panthers defenders and found Corey Perry to restore a three-goal lead for Edmonton.

But Edmonton was not out of the neck of the woods yet.

Eighteen seconds later, Evan Rodrigues scored for Florida through a net mouth free-for-all, and the Panthers cut the deficit to two again.

Into the second intermission, the Oilers led 4-2.

The third period saw the Panthers on the scoring end again when Oliver Ekman-Larsson put Florida within one.

The Panthers put plenty of pressure on Edmonton in the third period outshooting Edmonton 10-4.

But in the end, Connor McDavid sealed the game with an empty net goal after a sprawling Matthew Tkachuk initially saved a bid towards the empty net to seal a 5-3 Edmonton win and drag Florida back to Alberta.

Not to be overshadowed in the win was a three-assist night for Evan Bouchard whose 26 assists in the postseason surpasses the single postseason record originally set by his assistant coach Paul Coffey.

The empty net tally gives McDavid 42 points in the postseason, which puts him in 4th all time. Five behind the record set by Wayne Gretzky in 1985.

Stuart Skinner for Edmonton deserves plenty of credit in the win, 29 saves on 32 shots.

Connor McDavid raved about the team effort his teammates had in the win.

It was a total effort from everybody, special teams, obviously, were great. The penalty kill, there’s nothing else to really say. It’s been great. ‘Brownie’ scores a nice goal there to kind of settle us in. The power play got going, ‘Stu’ was great and 5-on-5 we just did enough. It was a total team effort from top to bottom. -Connor McDavid

Oilers Head Coach Kris Knoblauch spoke postgame about the battletested nature the Oilers have displayed all season.

I know a lot of guys counted us out, we’ve been counted out a lot through the playoffs, regular season, whatever. But it doesn’t faze the group in there. They have 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 are going back to Edmonton for Game 6 and there’s a lot to smile about. – Kris Knoblauch

The Oilers once again played their best game at the right moment and were awarded with a game 6 on Friday night.

For the Panthers, they still lead the series 3-2 with a chance for the third time to win the Stanley Cup.

Head coach Paul Maurice said of his team’s showing, “Absolutely nothing has changed for our situation in the last two games except we learned some things,” some lessons we don’t need to learn, we’ve learned them enough. But we keep getting taught those lessons. But nothing’s changed for us. Not one thing.”

Matthew Tkachuk after his guarantee was disappointed with how the Panthers started the game saying, “”Just unacceptable, we’ve got to start better. I thought our start was good, but we just gave one up and then we were trailing.”

Florida hopes to avoid being the fifth team in NHL history to squander a 3-0 lead in a playoff series. The Toronto Maple Leafs in 1942 are the only team in Stanley Cup Final history to rally from 3-0 down and win the series.

Friday Night in Edmonton will add another chapter to the wild saga of this year’s Stanley Cup Final. Will Florida finally claim the elusive Stanley Cup or will the dreams of Edmonton and an entire nation remain intact.


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