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Oilers determined to climb out of 3-0 series deficit: 'If anyone can, it’s the Oil'


One group is a single game away from fulfilling childhood dreams of hoisting the Stanley Cup.

The other just wants to avoid getting swept.

But both teams are approaching the next 48 hours with very similar mindsets. 

The Florida Panthers dominated much of Thursday night’s Game 3 in Edmonton, defeating the Oilers 4-3. The Panthers took a 4-1 lead in the second before Edmonton scored twice in the third period to set up a tight finish.

Afterwards, the Oilers insisted the belief remains that they can climb out of a 3-0 series deficit. 

“The way that we finished this game brings a strong belief in this group,” said goalie Stuart Skinner, who stopped 19 of 23 shots. “If we play like that for 60 minutes, we’ll give ourselves a really good chance to win games.”

Blueliner Darnell Nurse emphasized that they have to move on quick. 

“We’ve gotta just park the past and move on to Game 4,” he said. “This team’s been through so much this year, throughout the course of the season, the start, middle, and end. It’s no different now. We take it one day at a time and get ready for Game 4.”

The Oilers had several giveaways and miscommunications, two of which led directly to Panthers goals.

Nurse coughed up the puck behind his own net in the second period, leading to Florida’s third goal. He didn’t want to discuss the turnover afterwards, but acknowledged that the Oilers have had a hard time with the Panthers’ forecheck.

“They play an aggressive style where they’re on top of, it seems, all the [passing] options,” he said. “That’s probably an adjustment we can make…they’re a team that checks well. That’s why they’re in this spot.”

At times, it looked like the Oilers were passing too much and overthinking. Like Skinner, Nurse looked at the end of the game as the silver lining and reason for optimism. 

“In the third period there, we were just slinging pucks to the net,” Nurse said. “We’ve got to get traffic and bodies there and the puck there and just compete.”

On the other end of the ice, the Panthers are one win away from history. Despite being so close, the players were business-like when asked about the possibilities of Saturday.

“It’s there for us, but you don’t think about it,” said captain Sasha Barkov, who had two points. “You can’t think about it. All you have to do is take one moment at a time. Right now, we’ve got to enjoy this win. We battled really hard today. We had a good win and now we just enjoy this. Tomorrow, we need to recover…you never think too much ahead.”

Florida coach Paul Maurice, second in NHL history with 1,848 games behind the bench, wasn’t keen on discussing what could lie ahead either. 

“We would have talked about our recovery post-game…and I’m looking forward to going to bed,” he said, deftly avoiding the question. “I’m going to keep my focus on that and enjoy the heck out of it. If I’m fortunate enough to wake up, I’ve got a plan for tomorrow.”

On Thursday morning, Maurice predicted that Barkov would find another gear offensively on the road without needing to be matched against Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl. The coach commended Barkov’s play away from the puck and noted that his captain often plays his best when he’s not scoring.

“The number of nights he’s not on the scoresheet, everybody on the bench is going, ‘Oh my god, that guy’s a player,’” Maurice said. “That’s his gift to us.”

Perhaps no player was more outwardly optimistic about the Oilers’ chances than Skinner, an Edmonton native. The netminder has been thoroughly outplayed by Sergei Bobrovsky and has a save percentage south of .900 during the Final. 

But he insisted that if any team can pull off the rarest of rare comebacks, it’s the one led by two of the best players in the world. 

“We’re playing in June and that’s something to be very, very grateful for,” he said. “If anyone can [come back], it’s the Oil.”