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The Edmonton Oilers beat the Florida Panthers 5-1 and forced a 7th game in the Stanley Cup Final. – Monomaxos

EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — Connor McDavid was left without a point, so Leon Draisaitl and the other top players of the Edmonton Oilers stepped up and helped them to a victory the Stanley Cup.

Draisaitl made his first major contribution in the Finals by assisting on Warren Foegele’s early goal, Adam Henrique and Zach Hyman scored in the second period and the Oilers forced a Game 7 by defeating the Florida Panthers 5-1 in Game 6 on Friday night.

Ryan McLeod (71) of the Edmonton Oilers is congratulated for his goal against the Florida Panthers during the third period of Game 6 of the NHL Stanley Cup final on Friday, June 21, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta. The Oilers won 5-1 to even the series. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Ryan McLeod (71) of the Edmonton Oilers is congratulated for his goal against the Florida Panthers during the third period of Game 6 of the NHL Stanley Cup final on Friday, June 21, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta. The Oilers won 5-1 to even the series. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

“Ultimately, we’re playing to win, and this will be the hardest game for us,” said Draisaitl. “We have to get back to our game.”

They are the first team since the Detroit Red Wings in 1945 to come from a 3-0 series deficit to tie the final. The Oilers have a chance to join the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs in becoming the only NHL team to come back from a deficit and win the Stanley Cup on Monday night in Sunrise.

“It was an unwavering belief,” Hyman said. “No matter what happened all year, we always believed we could do it. No matter how bad the circumstances were, we believe we have a chance. It’s been a long season of adversity that has prepared us for this. The next one will be the toughest. It feels incredible to do this in front of this crowd. Now to have a chance to win, this is our first opportunity to win.”

The chance to write hockey history and end Canada’s three-decade Cup drought will only come after McDavid’s heroic deeds with four points each in Games 4 and 5 to pull the Oilers back from the brink of defeat. This was the first time in his nine-year career that they won a game in which he neither scored a point nor took a shot on goal.

Draisaitl, his longtime running mate from Germany, who was also the league’s MVP and is considered one of the best players in the world, provided the decisive spark in Game 5 after being largely ineffective against the Panthers.

The Edmonton Oilers celebrate a victory over the Florida Panthers in game six of the NHL Stanley Cup final on Friday, June 21, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta. The Oilers won 5-1 to even the series. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

The Edmonton Oilers celebrate a victory over the Florida Panthers in game six of the NHL Stanley Cup final on Friday, June 21, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta. The Oilers won 5-1 to even the series. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

“He’s a horse,” said defenseman Darnell Nurse. “He’s always there in the most important moments. If you look at all his playoff performances, he’s one of the best there’s ever been.”

Draisaitl got the puck in the middle of the ice, skated around and through the Florida defenders and put the puck on the tape of Foegele’s stick for a shot that Sergei Bobrovsky could barely stop. Of course, that didn’t stop the heated crowd of over 18,000 spectators from chanting “Ser-gei! Ser-gei!” before the national anthems and throughout the evening.

The goalie everyone calls “Bob” was hardly to blame, though, as mistakes in front of him also contributed to the 2-on-1 run that ended with Henrique beating Bobrovsky on a 2-on-1 run after a perfect pass from Mattias Janmark. The Panthers in front of their goalie looked tight and timid, different from the superior force that reached the finals for the second year in a row, winning the first three games to move on the verge of the first title in franchise history.

“We still have one game left,” said Panthers defender Dmitry Kulikov. “We were ready to play a seven-game series from the beginning and that doesn’t change now. We are three points ahead and they have played three good games. Now it’s up to us to win at home.”

Florida had just six shots on goal halfway through the game and finished with 21. Oilers goalie Stuart Skinner continues to be there when the Oilers need him most. saved in time to slow down the Panthers, allowing only one goal by Aleksander Barkov less than 90 seconds into the third period.

Florida Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (72) is hit by Edmonton Oilers goalie Zach Hyman (18) as Gustav Forsling (42) looks on during the second period of Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup final, Friday, June 21, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)

Florida Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (72) is hit by Edmonton Oilers goalie Zach Hyman (18) as Gustav Forsling (42) looks on during the second period of Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup final, Friday, June 21, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)

“He was great when we needed him,” Janmark said of Skinner.

The first time Barkov got the puck past him, 10 seconds after Henrique scored, the goal fell off the board when Edmonton coach Kris Garlic successfully challenged for offside. A longer review revealed that Sam Reinhart had entered the offensive zone perhaps an inch or less in front of the puck, which caused the fans to cry out loudly.

“I actually didn’t think it was that close,” said Knoblauch. “For me it was definitely offside.”

It wasn’t the loudest noise at Rogers Place, and there were many candidates for that award. The decibel meter on the video screens reached 113.8 as the Oilers entered the ice to the music of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.”

The noise level must have been almost as high when Ryan McLeod and Nurse scored goals into the empty net in the final minutes, triggering chants of “We want the cup!”, “We want the cup!” and exuberant celebrations among the spectators outside.

That was the boiling point for a city whose downtown was awash in a sea of ​​blue and orange in the hours before puck drop. Friday might as well have been a holiday in Edmonton, home to nearly a million people who can now fully dream of the Oilers hanging another white championship banner from the rafters – and in the most improbable way possible.

Warren Foegele (37) of the Edmonton Oilers celebrates his goal against the Florida Panthers with Dylan Holloway (55) during the first period of Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup final on Friday, June 21, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)

Warren Foegele (37) of the Edmonton Oilers celebrates his goal against the Florida Panthers with Dylan Holloway (55) during the first period of Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup final on Friday, June 21, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)

“We’re just happy that our season is continuing,” McDavid said. “That’s what it’s about. One game at a time, one day at a time. I’m looking forward to the next one.”

___

AP NHL Playoffs: https://apnews.com/hub/stanley-cup And https://www.apnews.com/hub/NHL



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