Connor McDavid and Oilers 'drag 'em back to Alberta' for Game 6 of Stanley Cup final

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The last thing the Florida Panthers wanted to have happen was get themselves dragged back to Alberta.

But that’s exactly what Connor McDavid & Co. is doing after the Edmonton Oilers captain uttered those very words following an 8-1 win in Game 4.

The Stanley Cup that Florida fans hopeful to see paraded around Amerant Bank Arena on Tuesday turned into one big porcelain bowl, as the Panthers ended up flushing down another golden opportunity.

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A 5-3 loss to the Edmonton Oilers in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final saw their once iron grip slip from a 3-0 series lead to now sit 3-2, where it’s anyone’s game.

“Absolutely nothing has changed for our situation in the last two games except we learned some things,” Panthers head coach Paul Maurice said. “Some lessons we don’t need to learn, we’ve learned them enough. But we keep getting taught those lessons.

“But nothing’s changed for us. Not one thing.”

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For the Oilers, however, it might as well be a completely new series given how far they’ve come from facing the prospect of getting swept right off the Stanley Cup stage by a formidable Florida team that once seemed nigh unbeatable.

“It’s tough, obviously, with where you’re at in this stage of the series, but you know, another crack at it on Friday,” said Panthers forward Matthew Tkachuk, who will return to Edmonton for Game 6 to a chorus of boos fueled by his days spent with the rival Calgary Flames that have obviously carried over to his new team. “We did a really good job in the beginning of the series in building that lead, so really nothing changes with that mindset: You’re up 3-2 going back to Edmonton, a couple days to get ready to go for that and get back healthy and rested and ready to go.”

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Connor McDavid sealed the deal Tuesday with an empty netter to set a Stanley Cup final record for points in back-to-back games with eight, as the Oilers have once again displayed an ability to come back from the dead.

Just like they did following a 2-9-1 start to the season that had them sitting 31st out of 32 teams and just like they did after trailing the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 in the second round.

And now, as they remain painstakingly close to tasting victory from the Cup, the Panthers have to turn right around and once again load up all the gear and all the family members to haul the 4,094 km to Rogers Place for a game they will most likely lose.

Whether they’re willing to admit it or not.

“No, no, no,” Tkachuk said when asked if the Panthers are starting to feel pressure to close out the series. “It’s not an elimination game for us. We’re going up there, we have a 3-2 series lead.

“We’ve just got to take care of business like we did in Game 3.”

The Oilers may still be one loss away from utter defeat, but they undoubtedly hold the momentum in a series that has seen them not only take on the Panthers, but history itself.

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The 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, the 1945 Detroit Red Wings and the 2012 New Jersey Devils were the only other teams to force Game 6 after starting out the Stanley Cup final trailing 3-0. And, so far, only the Leafs have come out on the winning side of their series.

“Momentum’s not an issue, we played a hell of a game,” Maurice said. “We gave up a short-handed goal, that’s got to stop. That’s two. We have a few really good looks, but it’s not about chances. I didn’t mind our game, I thought we were alright.

“We should be intensely interested in the next one and see how that’s played.”

Going by home-ice advantage alone, this series should probably be 3-2 at this point, with Florida playing three games at home, with a fourth scheduled for Game 7, if it goes that far.

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Not that Maurice will be taking any comfort in that fact knowing how well they handled the Oilers’ high-octane offence early on, and how much of a sharp turn it all took during their previous visit to Edmonton.

“I’m not pumping tires, I’m not rubbing backs. I don’t think we need that at all,” he said. “Everybody probably feels exactly the way I do right now.

“I’m not feeling deflated and neither is the hockey team. They’re not feeling deflated. A little grumpy.”

Not to mention road weary, at this point. Whereas the Oilers don’t have any further to go, considering their backs have already been right up against the wall for two games now.

E-mail: [email protected]

On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge

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