Stanley Cup Final: Oilers 'ready for the moment' as they try to force Game 7 vs. Panthers

The last thing a team wants to do in a playoff series is give their opponent hope. Any doors slightly ajar need to be shut immediately.

The Florida Panthers have had two opportunities to close out the Edmonton Oilers and win their first-ever Stanley Cup title. But Sergei Bobrovsky has been off his game (.769 save percentage) and Connor McDavid used Games 4 and 5 to show everyone that his team is not going down without a fight and that he can carry them all the way back in this series with consecutive four-point nights.

McDavid said ahead of Game 5 in Florida that the Oilers wanted to drag the Panthers “back to Alberta.” That meant another game and another 2,500-mile flight.

He got his wish, and while Panthers head coach Paul Maurice can say there’s also pressure on Edmonton at this moment, his team is the one that doesn’t want to drop a third straight game and leave the series up to a winner-take-all Game 7 that could have unfortunate historic consequences for his franchise.

"When you have nothing to lose, there's a freedom to that. When you have something to protect, sometimes you feel the pressure to protect it," Maurice said on Thursday. "So there's an evening out in this series now. I think the pressure is closer [between us]."

The Panthers will remain confident heading into Friday’s Game 6 (8 p.m. ET; ABC). The Stanley Cup will be in Rogers Place awaiting presentation to the Panthers should they win. The Oilers have seen their confidence grow with two big wins and their captain — McDavid — playing at his usual otherworldly level.

The Oilers are hoping to become the second team in NHL history to win the Stanley Cup after trailing 3-0 in the Cup Final. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
The Oilers are hoping to become the second team in NHL history to win the Stanley Cup after trailing 3-0 in the Cup Final. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Little mistakes are magnified on this stage, and the Panthers know what areas they need to be better in to get back to the way they played earlier in the series. Florida pushed to get back into Game 5 to no avail, but the players saw that despite score effects, they hadn’t completely lost their game.

"We are that team. I mean, we've been that team all year," said Panthers forward Matthew Tkachuk. "We had a little bit of a lapse in Game 4 here for a period and a half. But for the most part, we've been pretty consistent with it. We really like our 5-on-5 game. We're comfortable against anybody in the world with it."

Only one NHL team — the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs — has ever won the Cup after falling behind 3-0 in the Cup Final. The Oilers are gunning to be the second to accomplish that.

"There's no group that is more ready for the moment than this one here,” said McDavid.

Game 1: Panthers 3, Oilers 0
Game 2: Panthers 4, Oilers 1
Game 3: Panthers 4, Oilers 3
Game 4: Oilers 8, Panthers 1
Game 5: Oilers 5, Panthers 3
Game 6: Panthers at Oilers | Friday, June 21, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+)
*Game 7: Oilers at Panthers | Monday, June 24, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+)

(*if necessary)

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