Edmonton Oilers in Stanley Cup Final driver's seat after Game 5 win

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The Edmonton Oilers are halfway to the impossible.

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In a Stanley Cup Final that looked like it had already crashed on the rocks, the Oilers have assumed control, turning a 3-0 series deficit into a tidal wave of energy and momentum.

“We’re writing the story and we’re taking it into our own hands and we’re having fun doing it,” said Game 5 hero Connor Brown, who loves how the Oilers look right now.

“When you look at the way this season has gone, it seems to be that we back ourselves into a corner and we get feeling really comfortable and calm there and find a rhythm. Right now we’ve found a rhythm.”

Proving that their 8-1 win in Game 4 was no fluke, the Oilers rolled into Florida’s rink and walked right through what was supposed to be the Panthers’ best and most desperate game.

This time it was 5-3 as The Team That Wouldn’t Die rolled out to a 3-0 lead and calmly closed the deal, dragging the Panthers and their families back to Alberta for a Game 6 that none of them ever wanted to see.

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The Oilers, meanwhile, can’t wait for the last ride of the year at Rogers Place. It’s not very often, if at all, that a team can be leading a series two games to three, but that’s what the Oilers are doing after cancelling Florida’s Stanley Cup celebrations for the second straight game.

“When you’re down 3-0 it’s just hard work,” said veteran winger Corey Perry. “We knew we were playing decent and just waiting for those bounces and we got a couple. Now we’re going home. We’ve put ourselves in position to get another one.”

Oilers Panthers Perry
Corey Perry #90 of the Edmonton Oilers celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the second period against the Florida Panthers in Game Five of the 2024 Stanley Cup Final at Amerant Bank Arena on June 18, 2024 in Sunrise, Florida. Photo by Bruce Bennett /Getty Images

Something at the core of this series has changed and it happened fast. Edmonton has outscored the Panthers 15-4 since the third period of Game 3 and in what was supposed to be the hardest game of the series to win, the Oilers were never in trouble.

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For the Panthers, the pressure must be getting to them because the first half of their game looked like Rory McIlroy over a three-foot putt.

If they were overcome by the moment in Game 4, the moment in Game 5 went down the wrong pipe, too. The hosts were down 3-0 in the first 25 minutes on a shorthanded breakaway from Brown, a power play goal from Zach Hyman and an even-strength marker from Connor McDavid.

After a four-point night in Game 4, McDavid answered with two goals and two assists in Game 5.

“He puts this team on his back,” said Perry. “When we’re against the wall he puts us on his back. You see why he is the best player.”

To their credit, the Panthers came to life mid-game and turned their collapse into a photo finish. They cut Edmonton’s lead to 3-1 on a Matthew Tkachuk goal and when Corey Perry made it 4-1 Oilers, Evan Rodrigues and Oliver Ekman-Larsson closed it to 4-3 with 15 minutes to go.

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But it wasn’t enough time. The Oilers, looking like the team that handled these situations so well in the regular season, bent but didn’t break.

McDavid’s empty-net goal sealed the win.

So the Stanley Cup stayed in its box and got ready for the flight back to Edmonton for Game 6.

“You can never count the Oil out,” said goalie Stuart Skinner, who was better than Florida’s Sergei Bobrovsky for the second straight game. “Getting these two wins is crucial, now we have another one to get back in Edmonton.

“Even though we were able to win tonight and play a pretty good game, we have to still find a way to elevate our game. You saw tonight how the Panthers came back. They play extremely hard.”

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If you’re the Panthers, this is where you start to get really worried that you’re going to let this thing slip through your fingers. Edmonton has been the better team for the last two games, and three of the first five, your goalie isn’t in their heads anymore and now it’s back to Edmonton, where they will be cranking up the volume even louder in the place where you just suffered your worst defeat of the season.

The noose is tightening.

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