One night, one game: Edmonton Oilers fans waited a long time for this

‘I think we’ve done a great job of staying in the moment, staying poised and confident and just believing that we can go up against anybody and get the job done if we play our game.’

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It’s been 18 years since Edmonton felt this good about the Oilers.

It’s no longer about high expectation or false hope or growing pains or learning how to win. It’s about the Oilers being good enough to win a Stanley Cup.

Here and now.

It’s still a fine line they are having to walk — one win away from the Stanley Cup Final and one loss away from having to play a Game 7 on the road — but they’ve saved their best hockey of this long and turbulent season for when it matters most.

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In outscoring the Dallas Stars 5-2 and 3-1 in Games 4 and 5 to take a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference Final, the Oilers have looked pretty close to flawless. They’ve sent a 113-point team back to the drawing board in search of answers that won’t be easy to find if Edmonton maintains this pressure.

“Throughout the playoffs that might have been our best 60-minute effort,” head coach Kris Knoblauch said after the Oilers controlled Dallas for the better part of 55 minutes Friday night. “We’re going to need more of that going back for Game 6. Game 6 will be a must win for us.”

Game 6 is going to be bananas.

Hornet’s nest

The Stars must venture into the hornet’s nest that is Rogers Place, where the heads of the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks are already rotting on spikes and 18 years worth of pent-up energy from 18,347 fans is about to be released. Dallas has to figure out a way to beat it all back.

“The crowd is going to buzzing for sure, they’re going to be loud, they’re going to be excited,” said Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, whose two-goal effort in Game 5 helped lead the Oilers to this moment.

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“For us it’s about controlling the emotions, playing within ourselves and just trusting that our game is good enough to get the job done.”

Their game has been nothing short of fantastic since they began to pull away from a Stars team that was favoured when the series began.

Edmonton’s penalty killing killed off 25-straight dating back to Game 3 of the Vancouver series. Their defensive game held the Stars to six shots through 30 minutes in Game 5 and three goals over the last two games. In goal, Stuart Skinner is winning the goaltending battle with Jake Oettinger.

And now the Oilers have their power play going, which is kind of like introducing nuclear weapons into a war you were already winning with conventional weapons.

And, oh yeah, Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Evan Bouchard and Nugent-Hopkins are 1-2-3-4 in the playoff scoring race and Knoblauch is bringing it all together like a maestro.

This team is running hot and peaking at the right time.

“You work on it every day and you build confidence throughout the season,” said Nugent-Hopkins. “You string some games together and you believe in that group, you believe in the ability to win on any given night and that kind of feeds into the playoffs.

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“I think we’ve done a great job of staying in the moment, staying poised and confident and just believing that we can go up against anybody and get the job done if we play our game.”

There is no reason not to.

‘Getting ahead of ourselves’

But Knoblauch isn’t biting on the notion that Edmonton has taken over the series, despite scoring eight goals in a row to go from 2-1 down to a 3-2 lead.

“It can change so quickly from shift to shift, from game to game,” he said. “The last 50 minutes of Game 5 we played really well. And I do like how we played (Game 5), but to say we’re taking over the series is getting ahead of ourselves. We had a good game, but taking over, no, I don’t feel that way.”

Dallas coach Pete DeBoer is a long way from conceding anything. He knows the Stars took a couple of lumps in the last two games but believes there is every bit as much resilience and determination in his 52-win team as there is in Edmonton. Mix in some life-on-the-line desperation and he doesn’t mind their chances.

“We’re the best road team in the league, playoffs (6-2) and regular season,” he said. “We have to go and win one road game.

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“We haven’t found a way to win, but there’s not a lot of room, not a lot of time, That’s deep-run playoff hockey and I can tell you our guys are emptying the tank in that room.”

McDavid has been waiting a long time for a chance to play in a Stanley Cup Final, but he doesn’t dare look ahead.

“We were able to put together two good games and that’s all it is,” he said of their momentum. “We’ve put ourselves in an opportunity heading home to win a big game, but that’s all we’ve done. There is a lot of work to do.

“They’re a great group over there and they’re going to respond. It’s going to take our best effort.”

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