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The Day After +22.0: Desperation beats desire as Oilers stay alive in Stanley Cup Finals

Edmonton Oilers Florida Panthers
Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
29 days ago
In the time between the final buzzer of Game 3 and the start of Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals, Kris Knoblauch talked about how he and his Oilers felt they were right there in the series.
It drew the ire of some, and rightfully so. Despite looking like the better team in Games 1 and 3, the Oilers were facing a 3-0 series deficit to the Florida Panthers, outscored 11-4, heading into a pivotal Saturday night.
And for Knoblauch’s club on Saturday night, the expected goals actualized right in front of a packed Rogers Place crowd that saw the Oilers down the Panthers 8-1.
The fans were fired up when Enter Sandman reverberated through the building as the players hit the ice, and it took all of three minutes and 11 seconds into the game for the roof to blow.
With Darnell Nurse in the penalty box for tripping Sam Bennett, Connor Brown set up Mattias Janmark on a shorthanded two-on-one that The Janitor cleaned up without a mess. Then, five minutes later, Janmark would set up Adam Henrique in front of the Panthers net, as a shot got tipped past Sergei Bobrovsky.
“Those two might’ve been our best players,” said Knoblauch of Brown and Janmark. “They’ve been playing really well for a long period of time.
“Especially when we talk about Brownie, it’s been difficult for him this season. He didn’t play last year, he had a major surgery. He was just building his game, building his game. Throughout the season, he just kept getting better and better, now throughout the playoffs, he’s what we anticipated, what we wanted him for.
“With him and Janmark playing together, whoever their centre has been — right now Rico’s their guy and they’ve been playing well together — but they’ve definitely been a big part of our success.”
As one would expect, the Panthers pushed, scoring a goal that would turn out to be their only one of the game.
Depth scoring, something that Knoblauch emphasized ahead of Game 3 that the club needed more of, would continue to contribute as Dylan Holloway re-gained Edmonton’s two-goal lead. He made a great move to flutter a backhander in and out of Bobrovsky’s glove and into the net. From then on, it was all Oilers. Connor McDavid, Darnell Nurse, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Holloway again and finally Ryan McLeod would add more goals before the night was done.
Along the way, McDavid racked up three assists aside his goal — enough to springboard him past Wayne Gretzky to become the NHL record holder for most assists in a single playoff year with 32.
When asked where this performance from McDavid ranked, Knoblauch said it was “very high.”
“Because of what was at stake,” he added. “An elimination game, Stanley Cup Final. He just continues to impress everyone.
“He just keeps on making plays and scoring goals, making assists, whatever.”
While so much of the spotlight will shine on the offence with the eight goals and on McDavid for another incredible performance, some of that should also be directed the way of goaltender Stuart Skinner. He made 10 bell save after 10 bell save.
“He was great, especially timely,” said McDavid. “You talk about goaltending and needing timely saves, I think about that two-on-one save that would’ve made it 2-2.
“You never know how that might go. He made some really timely saves. That was as big of a save as you’re going to get.”
Ahead of Game 4, Panthers head coach Paul Maurice talked about there being two types of energy sources in the building tonight: desperation and desire. Desperation clearly won out, and while the Oilers are still in a difficult spot, the team’s mentality of taking things one at a time paid off for them.
At least last night.
“It’s just one win, that’s all it is — it doesn’t matter if you score eight, or you score one,” said McDavid. “It’s just one win, and we’re going to go to Florida, do our job, and drag them back to Alberta.”

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@thenationnetwork.com.

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