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Oilers top Panthers to extend finals again

USA TODAY
                                The Edmonton Oilers celebrate the win against the Florida Panthers today.
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USA TODAY

The Edmonton Oilers celebrate the win against the Florida Panthers today.

Connor McDavid is dragging the Florida Panthers back to Canada.

McDavid’s two-goal, two-assist outing led Edmonton to a 5-3 victory over the Panthers today in Sunrise, Fla., as the Oilers staved off elimination for a second time in the Stanley Cup Final.

Connor Brown, Zach Hyman and Corey Perry also scored for the Oilers, who have won two straight but still trail the best-of-seven series 3-2.

Edmonton goaltender Stuart Skinner made 29 saves and Evan Bouchard logged three assists, joining Larry Robinson (1978) as the only defensemen with seven multi-assist games in a single postseason. Bouchard now has 26 assists this postseason, the most by a defenseman during a single playoff run.

The series returns to Edmonton for Game 6 on Friday.

“It’s been a fun ride and we’re glad it’s going to go one more day,” McDavid said. “But that’s all we’ve earned here: Another day, another flight. We’ll be ready to go in Edmonton on Friday.”

McDavid, who has posted consecutive four-point outings, became only the third player in NHL history to notch 40 or more points in a single playoff year, joining Wayne Gretzky (1985, 1988, 1993) and Mario Lemieux (1991).

No player had ever recorded back-to-back four-point performances in the finals before McDavid did so, and he and Gretzky (1985) are the only players to have multiple four-point games at any stage of a finals.

“Connor doing Connor things,” Hyman told Sportsnet. “That’s what makes him special. He’s able to elevate his game at the most important times, the biggest reason obviously why we’ve come so far. We’re not here without him.”

Matthew Tkachuk and Evan Rodrigues each collected one goal and one assist for Florida. Oliver Ekman-Larsson also scored, and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 19 shots.

Although the Panthers retain their series advantage, they have now twice failed to close out the finals and claim the first Cup in franchise history. While the Oilers are trying to become only the second team in history to win the finals after trailing 3-0, the Panthers are trying to avoid blowing their golden opportunity at glory.

“Absolutely nothing has changed for our situation in the last two games except that we learned some things,” Florida coach Paul Maurice said. “Some lessons we don’t need to learn, we’ve learned them enough but keep getting taught those … but nothing’s changed for us, not one thing.

“I’m not feeling deflated. Neither is the hockey team. They’re not feeling deflated. A little grumpy.”

The Oilers, coming off an 8-1 win in Game 4 on Saturday, established a three-goal lead thanks to Brown’s first-period short-handed tally and two goals early in the second period: Hyman’s power-play marker and McDavid’s first of the night.

After Tkachuk put the Panthers on the board 6:53 into the middle frame, McDavid set up Perry’s man-advantage marker that made it a 4-1 game.

Rodrigues responded 14 seconds later and Ekman-Larsson made it a one-goal game at 4:04 of the third period, but the Panthers could not find the equalizer before McDavid’s empty-net goal iced the clash.

Although the Oilers have the opportunity to push the series the distance next time they hit the ice, the Panthers insist they don’t feel the pressure.

“No, it’s not an elimination game for us,” Tkachuk said. “Right now, we’re going up there and got a 3-2 series lead. Just got to take care of business.”

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