‘He’d had enough’: Oilers humanize Sergei Bobrovsky in Game 4 rout

Connor McDavid scored and notched three assists to set a new playoff record, Dylan Holloway scored twice, and Stuart Skinner made 32 saves to help the Edmonton Oilers crush the Florida Panthers 8-1 in Game 4 for their first win of the series.

EDMONTON — Every one of the 18,347 Edmonton Oilers fans who arrived inside Rogers Place for Saturday night’s goal party had a glittery orange pompom awaiting them on their seats.

Turns out, those complimentary souvenirs saw more action than Sergei Bobrovsky, who got lit up, razzed and chased out the building as the Edmonton Oilers ran roughshod over the Florida Panthers 8-1 in Game 4.

In the bowl, they were singing Shania and playing “La Bamba.” 

And in the bowels, keeper of the Cup Philip Pritchard was standing around gloveless and bored, with nothing to do besides ship a valuable piece of cargo seven hours southeast.

So, what about Bob, who came tumbling down to earth at the hands of a much-awaited Oilers’ offensive explosion and may have just watched his spot on the Conn Smythe power rankings slip one notch?

“Not a lot of silver linings here, people,” Florida coach Paul Maurice acknowledged, after his first loss in seven games. 

“But Bob got some rest. I’ll take that.”

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So stellar through the series’ first 180 minutes, Bobrovsky allowed five goals on the first 16 pucks directed his way and got the hook before the contest was half over (24:53), ceding the busier crease to backup Anthony Stolarz, who saw his first action in two months.

As things unravelled early, as the Oilers scored short-handed and zipped in on the rush, as Connor McDavid checked in with his first goal and Leon Draisaitl and Zach Hyman with their first points, Bobrovsky got an earful.

Those giddy fans with those bellies full of domestic draught and those mittfuls of tinsel were waving them to shame “Serrrrr-geiiii!” Heck, they even showered Florida’s No. 1 with Bronx cheers when he made a couple routine stops from long distance.

Smart. Nasty. Fun.

“He’d had enough,” Maurice said. 

“If you think you’re mounting a comeback, rarely does the goalie make a difference for you. There’s something that happens at the other end of the ice. He’s played an awful lot of hockey. My number on Bob’s probably five in general. That was the decision.”

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And the decision came amid an avalanche, as Edmonton’s expected goals morphed into actual ones. 

By hanging a touchdown plus the two-point conversion on the stingiest defensive team in hockey, the Oilers doubled their production through the Final’s first three games, all losses.

They now have 10 goals over their past four periods and some swelling confidence as the series heads back to the tarmacs.

The big guns have arrived, the depth has pitched in. Heck, even the power play finally clicked (albeit at 5-on-3, which Maurice said he doesn’t count) and the oft-maligned Darnell Nurse had his first snipe of the playoffs.

“We felt like it was going to break. It felt like we were going to find a way to score some goals,” said McDavid, after a four-point show. “We’ve got to repeat it.”

No doubt, the expectation from Florida’s side is that they will repeat the hard-checking, risk-adverse formula that earned them a split on the road and a 3-1 series edge.

And that a rested Bobrovsky will dial back in.

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“Everyone is human. You have to keep going, have to keep getting your looks and eventually something is going to go in,” Hyman said. 

“We got good looks tonight and were able to beat him. We have to do it again.”

Bobrovsky has so often bailed out the Panthers skaters when they made a mistake, so it was no surprise that they all had his back on this one.

“Zero are the goalie’s fault,” Matthew Tkachuk said. “He’s been unbelievable all year, all playoffs. That was more of a wakeup call to the forwards and the D as opposed to Bob.”

There’s a reason we seldom see a sweep in the Final. Make it now 26 years and counting. The second-best team is too good, too resilient. 

And on this eve — a wild and loud night in a puck-mad city that deserved a Saturday worth celebrating — desperation trumped desire.

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The Oil take a babystep toward stunning the world.

The Panthers are down to three chances to make history.

“It’s the first opportunity that we’ve had as a franchise really to feel the two days — the excitement of it, the emotions of it. We’ll learn how to channel it. That’s all part of this process,” Maurice said.

“Every new experience presents opportunities that you didn’t have. This was a good experience for us. There’s some room to learn on it. We’re gonna work really hard over the next few days to make sure we present that.”

We learned that Bobrovsky is beatable, that the Oilers won’t roll over, and that the Panthers weren’t quite ready to finish the deal just yet.

“We either win or we learn,” Aleksander Barkov said. “I think we learn a lot from this game.”

Fox’s Fast Five

• Matthew Tkachuk’s series through four games: no goals, one assist, 11 shots, minus-3 rating, three minor penalties.

The Panthers could use a better game from their 88-point star here.

“Especially tonight, it can definitely be better,” Tkachuk said of his own performance. 

“At the end of the day, we’re up 3-1 going back home. I thought that in the first two, I did a lot of good things and continued that in Game 3, but definitely didn’t like it tonight.”

• The volume inside Rogers Place touched 112 decibels before puck drop, which is as loud as standing next to an ambulance siren.

• Janmark became the first Oiler to score two short-handed goals in one post-season since Todd Marchant accomplished the feat in 1997.

• The 50/50 draw in Edmonton, which carried over from Game 3, climbed over $15.8 million.

• With assists 30, 31, and 32 Saturday, McDavid snapped Wayne Gretzky’s NHL record for most assists in a single postseason.

He also leads the Cup Final with six points.

“He’s the guy that sets everybody up. He’s taken that onus,” Hyman said. “Any time our team’s backs are against the wall, he’s the first guy to push back. For us to come back, he’s got to be the best. He seems to always be the best when we’re in these situations.”

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