Skip to content

Edmonton Oilers whip Panthers 5-1 to force Game 7 in Stanley Cup final

Championship-deciding contest set for Monday in Florida
Edmonton Oilers’ Zach Hyman (18) celebrates his goal with teammate Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) as Florida Panthers’ Gustav Forsling (42) looks on during the second period of Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup final in Edmonton, Friday, June 21, 2024.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Leon Draisaitl made his first major impact in the Stanley Cup Final, and the series is heading back to South Florida.

Draisaitl set up Warren Foegele’s early goal, Adam Henrique and Zach Hyman scored in the second period and the host Edmonton Oilers forced a Game 7 by beating the Florida Panthers 5-1 in Game 6 on Friday night.

They are the first team to tie the final after falling behind 3-0 in the series since the Detroit Red Wings in 1945. The Oilers have the chance Monday night in Sunrise to join the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs as the only NHL teams to come all the way back from that deficit to hoist the Stanley Cup.

The opportunity to make hockey history and end Canada’s three-decade-long Cup drought exists only after Connor McDavid’s heroics with four points apiece in Games 4 and 5 to take the Oilers from the brink to belief. Draisaitl, his longtime running mate from Germany who has also been league MVP and considered among the best players in the world, lit the spark in Game 5 after being largely ineffective against the Panthers.

Draisaitl got the puck at center ice, skated around and through Florida defenders and put the puck on the tape of Foegele’s stick for a tap-in that Sergei Bobrovsky had nearly no chance of stopping. That, of course, did not stop the fired up sellout crowd of 18,000-plus from mockingly chanting, “Ser-gei! Ser-gei!” starting before the anthems and continually throughout the night.

The goalie everyone calls “Bob” was hardly to blame, though, with mistakes in front of him also contributing to the 2-on-1 rush that ended with Henrique beating Bobrovsky off a 2-on-1 rush off a perfect pass from Mattias Janmark. The Panthers in front of their goaltender looked tight and timid and unlike the juggernaut that reached the final for a second consecutive year and won the first three games to move to the verge of the first title in franchise history.

Florida had just six shots on net midway through the game and finished with 21. Continuing a trend of being there when the Oilers need him the most, Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner made timely saves to stymie the Panthers, allowing just a goal to Aleksander Barkov less than 90 seconds into the third period.

The first time Barkov got the puck past him, 10 seconds after Henrique scored, the goal came off the board when Edmonton coach Kris Knoblauch successfully challenged for offside. A lengthy review found Sam Reinhart entered the offensive zone perhaps an inch or less before the puck, the announcement of which was followed by a roar from fans.

READ MORE: Alberta man paints his car to support Edmonton Oilers

That was not the loudest Rogers Place got, and there were plenty of candidates for that distinction. The decibel meter shown on video screens reached 113.8 when the Oilers stepped on to the ice to the tune of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.”

It might have approached that noise level when Ryan McLeod and Darnell Nurse scored empty-netters in the final minutes, setting off chants of “We want the Cup!” and a wild celebration at the viewing party outside.

That was the fever pitch of a city that was awash in a sea of blue and orange downtown in the hours before puck drop. Friday might as well have been a holiday in Edmonton, the home of nearly a million people now fully able to let themselves dream of the Oilers adding another white championship banner to the rafters — and do so in the most improbable way possible.

AP NHL playoffs: and