How the Oilers blew out the Panthers to avoid a Stanley Cup sweep: 5 takeaways

EDMONTON — Two days after Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid channeled his inner Yogi Berra by asking fans to stick with the team because “it’s not over ’til it’s over,” Edmonton staved off elimination and a Stanley Cup Final sweep Saturday night by pounding the Florida Panthers 8-1 at an electric Rogers Place.

McDavid scored his first goal of the series and added three assists to break Wayne Gretzky’s NHL record for assists in a single postseason (32). Dylan Holloway added two goals for the Oilers, and Mattias Janmark, Adam Henrique, Darnell Nurse, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Ryan McLeod had the others. Stuart Skinner made 32 saves.

McDavid has 23 points in nine games after a loss this postseason, passing Doug Gilmour’s 20 in 1993 for the most in one playoff year in NHL history.

He leads the league with 38 postseason points, which is the most points in a playoff year among active players. Evgeni Malkin had 36 in 2009.

Vladimir Tarasenko scored for the Panthers, whose six-game win streak is history. The loss came after the families of players and staff chartered to Edmonton on Saturday in case there was to be a Stanley Cup celebration in enemy territory.

Instead, the Oilers became the fourth team in a row to win Game 4 to extend a series after dropping the first three games of a Stanley Cup Final. The others were the Montreal Canadiens in 2021, the New York Rangers in 2014 and the New Jersey Devils in 2012.

Game 5 is in South Florida on Tuesday night.

Here are five quick takeaways on how the Oilers put together the blowout.

Oilers finally crack Bob

After allowing four goals in the first three games of the series and carrying a .953 series save percentage into Game 4, Sergei Bobrovsky was chased from the net following his fifth goal allowed on 11 shots 4:59 into the second period. Anthony Stolarz came on in relief for his postseason debut.

Florida’s previous worst lost of the postseason was a 5-1 Game 1 defeat to the Boston Bruins in the second round, and that was also the last time Bobrovsky allowed three goals in a period. He allowed three in the first Saturday.

Bobrovsky lost his net on Janmark’s short-handed goal for a 1-0 lead, had a Holloway shot go in under his pad and was beaten from way out by Nurse. It was the most goals Bobrovsky allowed since Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final.

Janmark jumpstarts Oilers offense

On a team with so many impactful players, Janmark is pretty far down on the list of offensive lynchpins. Yet, there he was, with the Oilers’ season on the line, getting the charge started.

Less than 25 seconds after Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Reinhart hit the post back-to-back on the power play, Janmark opened the scoring 3:11 in by cashing in on a short-handed two-on-one with penalty-kill partner Connor Brown setting him up. It wasn’t quite as pretty as when the two wingers connected in Game 4 of the Western Conference final to score the first special-teams goal of that series, but the result was the same. With that tap-in, Janmark became the first Oiler to score two short-handed goals in a single playoff since Todd Marchant did so in 1997.

He wasn’t finished, though. He centered the puck to Henrique in the crease for an easy goal just 4:37 later to give the Oilers a two-goal lead — their first of the series. Henrique’s goal stood as the winner.

The Oilers had lots of big offensive performances in Game 4, but Janmark got the ball rolling. Their season might not still be alive without him.

McDavid’s milestone

McDavid took over the game in the second period and etched his name in the record books because of it.

He was in on all three goals the Oilers had in the middle frame, scoring once and adding two assists. The second of those helpers gave him 31 in the postseason, tying Gretzky’s benchmark from the 1988 playoffs, which he later passed.

McDavid’s exploits during the second put the game out of reach as it expanded the lead to 6-1 for the home team.

He took a pass from Zach Hyman just inside the Panthers’ blue line and ripped a shot blocker side on Bobrovsky 1:13 into the stanza. He then left a drop pass for Nurse, who went top shelf on the Panthers goalie just 3:46 later. His record-tying assist came on Nugent-Hopkins’ two-man advantage goal at 13:03, and the record-breaker was on Holloway’s second of the night.

McDavid is regarded as the best player in the league and one of the greatest of all time for a reason. Saturday only enhanced his resume.

Oilers big names get in on the party

Aside from McDavid, the Oilers’ best forwards were unusually quiet for the first three games of the series. Draisaitl, Hyman and Nugent-Hopkins were all pointless — a big reason the Oilers were in their gigantic hole.

That all changed in Game 4.

Draisaitl had two assists — the first when he set up Holloway off a rush and second when his one-timer on a power play created a rebound goal.

Hyman didn’t add to his playoff-leading 14 goals, but he matched Draisaitl in the helper category. He dished to McDavid for his first assist and then provided secondary support on Nurse’s first of the playoffs.

Nugent-Hopkins cleaned up Draisaitl’s mess to ensure the Panthers were completely out of it.

The Oilers needed their big guns to make an impact in this series. McDavid had three assists coming in and more than doubled his production in Game 4. His star teammates followed, which could be a good omen as the series shifts back to South Florida.

Tkachuk down and dirty

In leading the Panthers to the Stanley Cup Final a year ago, it felt like all big things went through Tkachuk. There were overtime goals, game-winners, big hits and constantly being a menace.

But Tkachuk has yet to have a big moment this postseason.

He has one goal in the past 15 games, one assist in the past six games and just lacks any sort of flash right now. In this series, he has no goals, one assist and 11 shots in four games.

In Saturday’s Game 5, frustration boiled over in the second period when Tkachuk, the former detested Calgary Flame, grabbed McDavid and began to unload successive undercuts. When that was done, Sam Bennett entered the fray and took a couple cheap shots on McDavid, his former junior teammate.

Tkachuk and Bennett each got minors, and Nugent-Hopkins scored on a two-minute five-on-three for a 6-1 lead.

(Photo: Derek Leung / Getty Images)

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