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Oilers rout Panthers in Game 4 to extend Stanley Cup Final

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EDMONTON — Connor McDavid has dragged his team into the fight time and time again.

Facing elimination in the Stanley Cup final — and a daunting task — the superstar pulled off yet another clutch performance.

All of a sudden, the Oilers have life.

McDavid had a goal and three assists as Edmonton thumped Florida 8-1 on Saturday to cut the Panthers' lead in the best-of-seven title series to 3-1.

"Doesn't matter if you score eight or you score one," said the Oilers captain, the first player since 1987 to record four points in a Cup final game with his team facing elimination.

"It's just one win."

But an impressive one at that.

"The mentality is the same," said Oilers winger Zach Hyman, who had two assists. "The belief is the same. But it's nice to go and do it … and put a little doubt on the other side."

Dylan Holloway, with two goals and an assist, Mattias Janmark, with a goal and an assist, Adam Henrique, Darnell Nurse, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Ryan McLeod also scored for the Oilers, who finally solved Sergei Bobrovsky by putting five pucks past the Panthers netminder on 16 shots before he was pulled.

Stuart Skinner made 32 saves. Leon Draisaitl, with his first points of the series, also had two assists.

McDavid's three helpers gave him 32 this spring to pass Wayne Gretzky for the most in one post-season in NHL history.

"Not the focus with where we're at," said the 27-year-old. "But not lost on me what he means to the game."

Vladimir Tarasenko replied for the Panthers. Florida will have another chance to clinch its first Cup in Game 5 on Tuesday at home in Sunrise, Fla. Anthony Stolarz stopped 16 shots in relief.

"Every new experience presents opportunities that you didn't have," Panthers head coach Paul Maurice said of playing in a game with hockey's holy grail just 60 minutes from their grasp. "This was a good experience for us."

Edmonton, meanwhile, is looking to become just the fifth team in NHL history — and the second in the final — to come back from a 3-0 deficit and win a series.

The Oilers picked up their first victory in the championship round since June 17, 2006, after feeling they had played well enough to be leading Florida despite losses of 3-0, 4-1 and 4-3.

"Definitely helps our confidence," Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch said. "A little more luck, pucks went in the net."

Turnovers and mental errors at inopportune times, along with an inability to figure out Bobrovsky, put Edmonton in that deep hole.

The Oilers started what they hope will be a long climb Saturday.

Janmark opened the scoring at 3:11 of the first with his third goal — and second short-handed — of the playoffs.

Connor Brown appeared to run out of room on a 2-on-1, but slid the puck in front for Janmark to chip it into the open net with Bobrovsky taken out by sliding Florida defenceman Brandon Montour.

The early breakthrough came moments after Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Reinhart both hit the post at the other end of the rink on the power play.

Henrique made it 2-0 at 7:48 with his third off a pass from Janmark as Rogers Place erupted into a euphoric sea of blue and orange.

Tarasenko got one back on a deflection at 11:26 with his fifth before Skinner robbed Carter Verhaeghe on a 2-on-1 with the Oilers on their heels.

But the home side re-established the momentum when Draisaitl found Holloway for him to beat Bobrovsky with his fourth at 14:48.

Edmonton, which is looking to become the first Canadian team to win the Cup since the 1993 Montreal Canadiens, scored three times on 10 shots after the Panthers goaltender stopped 82 of 86 attempts through the first three games.

McDavid made it 4-1 at 1:13 of the second when he ripped his first of the series past Bobrovsky's blocker before fans started to mock the veteran netminder.

"An elimination game, in the final," Knoblauch said of the star centre's performance. "Just continues to impress everyone … just keeps on making plays and scoring goals."

Nurse stretched the lead to four when he blasted his first of the post-season at 4:59 off a McDavid setup, ending Bobrovsky's night.

Stolarz steadied things, but the Panthers, who lost in 1996 and last spring in their only other trips to the final, took two penalties on the same scrum when both Tkachuk and Sam Bennett went after McDavid.

Nugent-Hopkins swatted home a loose puck on the ensuing 5-on-3 power play at 13:03 to break Edmonton's 0-for-11 goose egg.

"You just have to make sure that you put in the work next day to create those looks," Draisaitl said of building off the performance. "They're going to be a little bit tighter and be focused on that part of the game."

Holloway made it 7-1 off another McDavid setup — his 38th point this spring — with the winger's fifth at 14:11.

The setup gave McDavid a jaw-dropping 32 assists in these playoffs to pass Gretzky.

"That's what the great ones do — they lead," Brown said. "He's one of the greats. He leads by example. He leads with his words. When you need a shift, when you need a play, he pulls it out time and time again."

McLeod rounded out the scoring 2:30 later with his third before the party started in the streets around Rogers Place as the Oilers finally pushed back against the Panthers.

And bought themselves at least one more game.

"We gotta go to Florida and do a job," McDavid said. "And drag them back to Alberta."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 15, 2024.