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The Day After +24.0: Edmonton Oilers storybook season lives to fight another day

Edmonton Oilers Stanley Cup Finals
Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
1 month ago
With the temperature and pressure cranked as high as can be, the Edmonton Oilers have turned carbon atoms into diamonds, pushing the Stanley Cup Finals to a Game 7 on Monday night.
It’s something few in the hockey world imagined, but one the team had undying faith in.
“If anyone can do it, it’s the Oil,” said Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner after his club fell down 3-0 in the series last week.
Well, now, the Oilers are back from the dead with new life, beating Florida 5-1 Friday night in Game 6, compiling three straight wins in a row just one away from hoisting Lord Stanley’s Mug. A win Monday night would put them in a unique class, potentially becoming the second team in NHL history to overcome a 3-0 series deficit to win it all.
But after Friday’s win, the Oilers know the job’s not finished.
“This is what we’ve all played for our whole lives: an opportunity like this,” said the longest-serving member of the team, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, now in his 13th NHL season Friday night.
Warren Foegele kicked off the scoring for the Oilers, getting to his feet after getting knocked down, as Leon Draisaitl dished a perfect saucer pass to him, deflecting it past a sprawling Sergei Bobrovsky.
Just 46 seconds into the second period, the Oilers extended their lead thanks to a play all started from behind Edmonton’s net. Mattias Ekholm fired a puck up the boards, finding its way to Mattias Janmark for a two-on-one with Adam Henrique. The Janitor, who has been busy cleaning up goals, set up Rico for a goal to extend the Oilers lead.
It didn’t last long — or so it was thought — as while Sasha Barkov was able to score, Sam Reinhart was determined to be offside after the Oilers initiated a video review.
“We saw it right away, and it was very close, but the one angle we saw was definitley still touching the blue when his skate was over,” said Nugent-Hopkins. “We had a good feeling, it’s just still makes me nervous about whether they’re seeing it, if it’s conclusive.”
On the other side, however, the Panthers didn’t quite see things the same way.
“There was no way I would’ve challenge that if it was reversed,” Florida Panthers head coach Paul Maurice said. “There’s no way I thought you could conclusively say that was offside. I don’t know what the Oilers get. I don’t know what the league gets.”
“I’m not saying it’s not offside,” he added. “We’ll get still frames. We bring in the CIA. We’ll figure it out.”
The Panthers continued to push all period long, outshooting the Oilers 11-4 following a first frame in which Edmonton outshot Florida 11-2. Through the pressure, Stuart Skinner stood tall as the players in front of him helped limit the Cats to just one high-danger scoring chance in the period.
Their ability to bend, but not break played key, as with just over a minute and a half in the second, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins blocked a shot that flew out of the Oilers’ zone, allowing Zach Hyman to get a breakaway. The book evidently was out on how to beat Bobrovsky in these situations, as Hyman went to his backhand, flipping a puck past Bobrovsky.
Barkov eventually scored, making two nice moves to get around Foegele and Skinner, scoring a minute and a half into the third period, but one was far from enough.
A mere 15 seconds after the Panthers pulled Sergei Bobrovsky, who was bombarded with “Sergei” jeers all night, with 3:30 left in the third, Ryan McLeod found the back of the net. Darnell Nurse added another 13 seconds later, and that was it.
All year long, all playoffs long, and through the first three games of the finals, all the Oilers have talked about is belief in their group. Belief in their ability to get to the exact position they are right now, on the precipice of hockey glory.
Talk is cheap when it isn’t backed up by action, but for the Oilers, they’ve put up.
“We haven’t done this the easy way to get here,” said Nurse. “We’ve had our backs against the wall a couple times and I think when you fight through adversity as a group, like we’ve done not just this year, but multiple years now, that belief, it just becomes a habit in our group and we know what to do.
“We got to bring that for one more game.”
And that’s what the Oilers will look to do Monday night.

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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