How beating Panthers at their own game could help Oilers make history

David Amber, Kelly Hrudey, and Kevin Bieksa look ahead to Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final, discussing how each team will fare after a blowout Edmonton Oilers win, whether Florida Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky will bounce back, and more.

Although the Edmonton Oilers still face long odds of winning the Stanley Cup, their 8-1 win against the Florida Panthers on Saturday injected some intrigue into the series. On Tuesday, the Oilers can become the fourth team in NHL history to force a Game 6 after going down 3-0 in the final. (The 2012 New Jersey Devils were the last team to do it before losing to the Los Angeles Kings in six games.) 

The Oilers have taken a page out of the Panthers’ book over the past two games, and it could help them send the series back to Edmonton on Friday. 

In Games 3 and 4, the Oilers generated 25 scoring chances off of turnovers, compared to just eight for the Panthers. Edmonton scored three goals within 10 seconds of a Florida turnover Saturday — Mattias Janmark’s shorthanded strike, Connor McDavid’s second-period tally and Ryan McLeod’s blast in garbage time. 

“It’s patient defensive hockey,” Oilers forward Connor Brown told The Athletic. “It’s not forcing it. It’s almost a 0-0 mentality. Take what they give you instead of trying to just force it and get on the board. A lot of times when you play that way you end up scoring more. It’s kind of a paradox that way.”

The Panthers rely heavily on turning takeaways into offence — Sam Bennett’s goal in the second period of Game 3 being a prime example. Prior to Game 4, Florida had outscored its playoff opponents 28-19 within 10 seconds of a turnover in all situations, including 4-1 against Edmonton. (At 5-on-5, the Panthers had a 17-13 edge in that department before McDavid and McLeod scored Saturday.)

Florida’s carelessness with the puck helped awaken Edmonton’s attack. The Oilers generated 12 odd-man rushes Saturday — the most allowed by the Panthers this post-season — and scored on six of them. 

“I think we needed to go through that experience (Saturday),” Panthers coach Paul Maurice told reporters Monday. “I mean, we would have traded our experience for a win, but then you have to embrace that learning.”

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The Panthers have not let losses pile up in the playoffs, going 4-1 in games following a loss and outscoring opponents 21-10. Sergei Bobrovsky, who was pulled Saturday after allowing five goals on 16 shots, has posted a 1.97 goals-against average and .914 save percentage in those games. 

If the Oilers can continue pressuring the Panthers into mistakes, however, the trajectory of this series could change. 

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