Huge set back: Edmonton Oilers has just experience a huge set back…….

McDavid, Oilers send Stanley Cup final back to Edmonton after Game 5 victory over Panthers

Edmonton captain leads way with 2 goals, 2 assists in crucial 5-3 win


The Oilers are dragging the Panthers back to Alberta.

Connor McDavid is the overwhelming reason why.

The superstar captain had two goals and two assists as Edmonton held on for a 5-3 victory Tuesday to cut Florida’s lead in the Stanley Cup final to 3-2.

“He’s been driving the bus since he’s got here,” Oilers winger Zach Hyman said after scoring his first goal of the series. “He’s the guy who’s been leading this team. You kind of expect it from him.

“Don’t want to put any extra pressure, but that’s what he does. He elevates his game at the most opportune times.”

Connor Brown and Corey Perry provided the rest of the offence for the Oilers, who have won two straight — including Saturday’s 8-1 whitewash on home ice — facing elimination after dropping the best-of-seven matchup’s first three contests. Evan Bouchard had three assists.

“It’s easy to talk the talk,” said Stuart Skinner, who finished with 30 saves. “It’s a lot harder to walk the walk. We’re proving to ourselves that we can do both.”

Matthew Tkachuk and Evan Rodrigues, with a goal and an assist each, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson replied for Florida. Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 19 shots for the Panthers, a group now feeling the squeeze following consecutive losses with the Cup in the building and a chance to clinch the franchise’s first-ever title.

“I’ve been part of a lot of teams that have always said they had strong belief,” said Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch, a November hire tasked with righting the ship following a disastrous start to the schedule. “Most of the time they don’t. But with this group, they say they have strong belief, I truly believe they have that strong belief.

“The more situations you go through where you face adversity, it just sets you up for being able to handle it in the future.”

Game 6 in a championship round with the furthest distance between cities in NHL history at more than 4,000 kilometres goes Friday in Edmonton. Game 7, if necessary, would be Monday back in South Florida.

“I’m not pumping tires. I’m not rubbing backs. I don’t think we need that at all,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said. “Everybody feels probably exactly the way I do right now. I’m not feeling deflated. Neither’s the hockey team. They’re not feeling deflated. Little grumpy.”

Maybe a lot grumpy.

“We’re going to turn the page,” forward Evan Rodrigues said. “We’re going to learn from this one.”

McDavid chasing Gretzky, Lemieux

McDavid’s 42 points this spring already represents the fourth-best individual playoff performance in league history behind Wayne Gretzky (47 points, 1984-85), Mario Lemieux (44 points, 1990-91) and Gretzky (43 points, 1987-88).

“Anytime you’re in the same realm as those two, it’s always a good thing,” McDavid said.

The 27-year-old’s eight points in Cup elimination games — he put up four Saturday — also set the record for one title series.

The Oilers are looking to capture their first Cup in 34 years — and the first for a Canadian team since the Montreal Canadiens won in 1993.

The five-time winners are also aiming to become just the fifth team in NHL history to come back from a 3-0 deficit and win a series. The 1942 Toronto Maple are the only club to accomplish the feat in a final.

The Panthers came out of the gates flying at Amerant Bank Arena, forcing Skinner to make big stops on both Sam Reinhart and Aaron Ekblad in the opening moments.

Florida went to the power play a few minutes later, but the Oilers scored their second short-handed goal in as many games to open the scoring — a first in the history of the final.

Brown, who waited until his 55th contest to score this season, intercepted a no-look pass by Panthers defenceman Brandon Montour at Edmonton’s blue line and outraced Aleksander Barkov before making a deke to the backhand on an outstretched Bobrovsky for his second goal of the playoffs at 5:30.

The Oilers’ struggling man advantage had two minutes of fresh ice and a number of looks to start the second before finally breaking through at 5-on-4 when Bouchard’s blast hit Hyman in front for his playoff-leading 15th at 1:58.

McDavid then snuck his seventh under Bobrovsky — suddenly human after stopping 82-of-86 shots through the first three games — from a sharp angle at the five-minute mark for a 3-1 lead.

Tkachuk got Florida on the board 1:53 later when he fired his sixth, and first since May 22, upstairs.

Edmonton struck late on another power play at 11:54 when McDavid wove into the offensive zone and found Perry on a spectacular setup for the veteran winger’s first.

Rodrigues scored his seventh of the post-season, and fourth of the final, 1:16 later to make it 4-2.

Ekman-Larsson brought the Panthers to within one at 4:04 of the third period with his second before McDavid iced it into the empty net to force Game 6.

A group that rebounded after starting the season 2-9-1, came back from three deficits against the Vancouver Canucks in the second round of the playoffs, and fell behind the Dallas Stars 2-1 in the Western Conference final, the Oilers now sit just two wins from improbable glory.

“It’s been a fun ride,” McDavid said. “It’s going to go one more day… all we’ve earned here is another day.

“We’ll be ready to go in Edmonton.”

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