Stanley Cup final returning to Edmonton after Oilers hold on for 5-3 Game 5 victory

Oilers fans down in Sunrise, Fla., tell Darcy Ropchan they’ve “waited so long for this” after Edmonton stays alive in the Stanley Cup final. The Oilers have a chance to even the series Friday at Rogers Place.

What seemed awfully unlikely just three days ago is one game closer to reality.

The Edmonton Oilers are one win away from levelling the Stanley Cup final after defeating the Florida Panthers 5-3 in Game 5.

Florida leads the best-of-seven series 3-2, with Game 6 being played Friday night at Edmonton’s Rogers Place.

The Oilers are looking to become only the second team after the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs to overcome a 3-0 deficit in the final to hoist the Stanley Cup.

Edmonton captain Connor McDavid was the team’s offensive powerhouse once again, adding two goals and two assists to his already impressive point total.

“He puts this team on his back,” said Corey Perry of McDavid. “When we’re against the wall, he puts us on his back and he plays. You see why he is the best player.”

Connor Brown, Zach Hyman and Perry also scored for the visitors, with Evan Bouchard adding three helpers and Stuart Skinner making 29 saves.

Edmonton is 4-0 when facing elimination this postseason.

“You can never count the Oil out,” said Skinner. “Being able to get these two wins are obviously crucial. We got another one to get back in Edmonton. That’s our main focus right now.”

Matthew Tkachuk, Evan Rodrigues and Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored for the Panthers, which got 19 saves from Sergei Bobrovsky.

Tuesday’s contest was no blowout like Saturday’s Game 4, which saw the Oilers score eight times and chase Bobrovsky from the game.

It had the makings of another lopsided win, however, with Edmonton jumping to a 4-1 advantage midway through the second period. But two straight goals by the Panthers kept the home side – and their fans – in the game.

IN PHOTOS: Fans cheer on Oilers at Game 5 watch party outside Rogers Place

The Oilers talked about the importance of an early goal in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final, and Brown delivered.

After Skinner made back-to-back standout saves on Carter Verhaeghe and Tkachuk to open the first period, Brown thanked his goaltender at the other end of the ice with a shorthanded goal.

With Brett Kulak in the box for high sticking, a speedy Brown intercepted a pass at his own blue line, raced down the ice and beat Bobrovsky on a breakaway at 5:30 to give Edmonton the 1-0 lead.

An interference penalty to Florida’s Niko Mikkola at the end of the first period proved costly for the home side early in the second. With the Oilers playing with the man advantage, Bouchard’s slap shot went off Hyman’s leg and into the net at 1:58 for the 2-0 lead.

Bouchard became the fourth defenceman in NHL history with 30 points in a single postseason, while Hyman joined Alex Ovechkin and Sydney Crosby as the third active player to score 15 goals in the same playoff run.

McDavid added a third for the Oilers just three minutes later by sneaking a puck past Bobrovsky from a tight angle — nearly along the goal line.

“Connor doing Connor things,” Hyman said of the Oilers captain. “That’s what makes him special. He’s able to elevate his game at the most important times. The biggest reason obviously why we’ve come so far. We’re not here without him. He continues to drive the bus for us.”

Edmonton Oilers left wing Zach Hyman (18) celebrates after scoring a goal during the second period of Game 5 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals against the Florida Panthers, Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

The Panthers got on the board through Tkachuk’s first of the final, a perfectly placed shot into the top-right corner of the net, glove side on Skinner, at 6:53.

Both teams traded quick goals midway through the period. Perry found the back of the net at 11:54 after McDavid split three Panthers players, giving Edmonton a 4-1 lead.

“I watched him go through three guys and pass it over to me,” said Perry of McDavid. “I didn’t even yell for it, he just saw me go to the net. That’s just the type of player he is.”

“There’s one guy in the world who can do that,” Brown added.

Florida replied almost immediately — 14 seconds later — when Rodrigues chipped a loose, bouncing puck in the crease past Skinner to cut the deficit to two.

Ekman-Larsson’s snap shot at 4:04 of the third gave the Panthers new life.

That 4-3 scoreline held until the game’s final minutes, despite a flurry of shots from Florida with time ticking away.

“You’re just trying to be in the moment and make the plays when you have to,” Skinner said of Florida’s third-period push. “There’s obviously some nerves, I think on both sides everyone was feeling it.

“Even though that they got a really big goal, after that we shut it down pretty good. That’s a credit to the guys.”

Edmonton Oilers right wing Connor Brown (28) is congratulated by his teammates after scoring a goal during the first period of Game 5 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals against the Florida Panthers, Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

McDavid sealed it with an empty-net goal with 19 seconds on the clock. His four-point night gave him 42 these playoffs — the fourth highest point total in a single NHL postseason.

Edmonton lost three games in a row on three separate occasions during the regular season. They followed those skids with an eight-, 16- and five-game win streak.

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