Saturday, July 20, 2024

How the Oilers won Game 6 vs. the Panthers, bringing them to the brink of a historic Stanley Cup comeback: 5 takeaways

EDMONTON — Thousands of orange-and-blue-clad fans partied in Rogers Place and the streets of Alberta’s capital city Friday night.

After being down 3-0 in the Stanley Cup Finals by everyone outside of their locker room, the Edmonton Oilers did the impossible and cruised to a 5-1 win over the Florida Panthers in Game 7 on Monday. .

For a team that finished last in the 32-team NHL on Nov. 9, trailing in earlier playoff series against the Vancouver Canucks and Dallas Stars, it’s almost fitting.

The Oilers are the third team in NHL history to win three games in the Stanley Cup Final while facing elimination. The others were the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and the 1945 Detroit Red Wings. The 1942 Leafs are the only team in NHL history to come back from a 3-0 deficit and win the Stanley Cup.

So far.

“Didn’t get the job done,” said Zach Hyman, who scored a breakaway goal in the game. “It’s a great story, but you have to finish it. If you don’t finish it, everyone will forget. That’s the key. It’s great to give them a moment like that, but I think they’re waiting for a bigger moment.

It was a dominant performance from start to finish on Friday, with the Oilers giving up two shots on goal in the first period and zero Panthers forwards through the half of the game.

Warren Fogel and Adam Henrique scored for the Oilers, and Ryan McLeod and Darnell Nurse added empty netters. Hyman now leads all scorers with 16 goals this season. Add in his regular season and he has scored 70 goals during this 2023-24 campaign.

Alexander Barkov, who scored a goal early in the first period after Sam Reinhart was offside after a coach’s challenge, scored a highlight-reel goal in the third period to pull the Panthers within 3-1.

Oilers goalie Stuart Skinner stopped 19 of 20 shots — and picked up an assist on Nurse’s goal — while Panthers’ Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 16 of 19 shots.

Edmonton’s 18 goals in this Stanley Cup Final faced elimination. 1942 Maple Leafs (19) Most in NHL history.

They have all the momentum going into Game 7.

“It’s been a story so far, but at the end of the day, we’re playing to win and it’s going to be a tough game for us,” Oilers star Leon Tricite said. “They’re going to come out hard. They’re going to play at home. We’ve got to bring our game back. I’m very proud of the way we gave ourselves a chance. That’s what it was.

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“It’s not going to be easy by any means, a walk in the park. It’s going to be a tough game of the series. We know it. We know that. But that being said, really, I’m proud to give ourselves a chance.

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Oils predominate at first

Rogers Place was buzzing before the game, and fans had plenty of reason to bring the electricity throughout the first period as the Oilers dominated every second of the game. They outscored the Panthers 11-2, allowing no shots on their one penalty kill. Florida’s overall shots came from senior third-pairing defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

The Oilers took a 1-0 lead for the third straight game on Fogel’s goal after Aaron Ekplat, who has been on fire all series, made a split and tripped up. Fogele also fell to the ice, but quickly got up and received a pass from Droyside for a back-door one-timer, the forward’s third goal in 21 games.

But the Panthers dominated the first game and scored only one goal to feel the victory. Bobrovsky kept Florida in a game it didn’t deserve to play.

The Barkov goal comes off the board

Edmonton took a 2-0 lead 10 seconds after Henrique scored in the opening minute of the second period, and the Panthers thought it was a big goal from Fargo after a strong zone entry by Carter Verhehe, who was surprisingly calm. series. But the Oilers’ Chris Knoblauch issued the first coach’s challenge of the series, arguing that Reinhardt was offside because Verhehe walked the blue line.

After a lengthy review, the linesmen, along with the NHL situation room in Toronto, ruled that Reinhardt had indeed crossed the line by millimeters. The goal was wiped off the board and the cut-in-half deficit became two goals again.

To say the least, Panthers coach Paul Morris isn’t happy.

Morris insists the Oilers must have had a different vision than he did.

“I have no idea (if officials got it right),” Maurice said. “It could have been offside. The linesman told me the last clip of where they made the decision showed it was offside. I don’t have them. I was upset after the call based on what I was seeing at my feet and what my video guy was seeing. I probably wouldn’t have challenged it if it had been reversed. .

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“I don’t think you can say for sure it was offside. I don’t know what (replay angles) the Oilers will get. I don’t know what the league will get. I know I wouldn’t have challenged it based on what I saw.

“I’m not saying it’s not offside. Let’s get still frames. Let’s bring in the CIA. We’ll figure it out. But I wouldn’t have challenged (to make) that call in 30 seconds.

It must have felt like a mountain to climb back to Florida.

Barkov eventually scored a sensational goal in the third.

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Another Knoblauch sequence modification works wonderfully

Fogel was moved up from the fourth line to play with Connor McDavid and Hyman for Games 4 and 5, with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins pushed down to skate with Draisaitl and Dylan Holloway. Based on the results of those two matches, the move is hard to argue with.

Despite the win, Knoblauch opted to tinker with the top two lines ahead of Game 6 by flipping Fogel and Nugent-Hopkins. His twisting paid off — and early on.

Fogele finished off a pass from the tri-site at an odd 7:27 mark for his third goal of the playoffs. That assist gave Draisaitl his third point of the series, following his two assists in Game 4. Displeased with his performance, Draisaitl said in the morning that he was “interested in coming to the series,” and he certainly did.

The Draisaitl-Foegele connection is a recent example of the Knoblauch shift. The Vancouver Canucks dealt Skinner in the series, moved Holloway up the lineup and made three changes before Game 4 of the Western Conference finals, and most of the coach’s decisions turned golden.

Congratulations on the penalty kill

Where would the Oilers be in these playoffs without their job? The superstars, namely McDavid, get most of the limelight, but Edmonton can’t win a Stanley Cup title without a penalty kill.

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The Oilers killed three Panthers power plays and have now killed 46 of their last 47 penalties, including 21 straight at home.

But that’s not all. They also had two short-handed goals in the cup final, so they outscored the Panthers 2-1 when they went down on skates. This is the second series they have done. Mattias Janmark recorded the first of his two postseason shutouts in the Western Conference finals, allowing the Dallas Stars PP to edge Oilers PK 1-0.

“For us to get to this point, we’ve had to flip our mentality around defense, a big part of which is the penalty kill,” Hyman said. “The penalty kill is unique, maybe more than anyone thought.”

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Hyman’s 54 goals in the regular season was one of the great stories of the 2023-24 campaign. Based on his age and where he was drafted, he was one of the top 50-goal scorers in NHL history.

He hasn’t slowed down in the postseason.

Hyman scored his second goal of the Stanley Cup Final at 18:20 of the second period. He did so by bolting forward to grab the puck that Nugent-Hopkins blocked, deflected off Ekblad, eluded a diving Gustav Forsling and fired a shot past Bobrovsky.

The goal was Hyman’s league-leading 16th of the season. The only players in the past 30 years to record more in the playoffs are Joe Sakic (18 for the Colorado Avalanche in 1996) and Pavel Bure (16 for Vancouver in 1994). That leaves Reggie Leach (Philadelphia Flyers, 1975) and Jerry Curry (Edmonton, 1985) tied for the all-time mark.

Hyman’s 70th in 2023-24 (regular season and playoffs), tied him with Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs for the top spot.

McDavid was the only player with more games in a campaign last season with 72 (64 regular season and eight playoffs).

“It’s interesting,” Draysaitl said of Hyman. “He’s a hacka hockey player. Very unique. He is like a small bull. He jumped out of the gate like no one else could. His first two strides were very powerful, and I think you see that in goal today. He has exploded from there and is calm, cool and collected in front of the net. He knows where to go. A really smart hockey player.

(Photo: Jeff Winnick/Getty Images)

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