EDM mistakes TONIGHT bug

EDMONTON -- The Edmonton Oilers walk a fine line when it comes to being creative with the puck and living with the consequences when things go awry.

Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch is not a fan of his players chipping the puck off the glass and out, preferring them to keep possession and trying to make a play, even deep in their own zone.

With that, he is aware mistakes are going to occur, which was the case in the past two games of Stanley Cup Final against the Florida Panthers, leading to a 3-0 deficit in the best-of-7 series.

If Edmonton is going to stay alive with a victory Game 4 at Rogers Place on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; CBC, TVAS, SN, ESPN+, ABC), it has to eliminate the major mistakes ending up with the puck in the net.

“It’s tough, you’re never going to play a perfect game,” Knoblauch said Friday. “There are always going to be mistakes and mistakes are always more noticeable when the puck goes in the net. There were mistakes last night and there’s mistakes with every single win that we’ve had this year -- we had 49 in the regular season and 12 in the playoffs, we’ve had games full of mistakes.

“You just try to limit the mistakes you have and if you’re always being safe, and I think we saw that in Dallas in Game 6, where I don’t think we made many mistakes, but we were defending all the time, we were afraid to make a play. We won that game, but we can only do that so much. As a team, you have to balance on making plays, being safe, not making mistakes.”

NHL Now crew react to Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final

Gifting goals has been an issue for the Oilers throughout the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but they have been able to overcome them to this point. It might not be the case against the Panthers, who have taken advantage of numerous mistakes so far in the series and can win the Stanley Cup for the first time on Saturday.

“We can’t script everything, every situation is different, every player is different, they have different confidence levels, who they’re going against,” Knoblauch said. “As coaches we want them to play a perfect game and it’s ridiculous to think they’re going to play that, we just have to find the balance on the mistakes and making a play.”

Defenseman Darnell Nurse gave the puck away in Game 3 trying to flip a backhand pass in traffic resulting in a goal by Sam Bennett to put Florida up 3-1 at 13:57 of the second period in a 4-3 win.

In Game 2, Evan Bouchard put the puck on the stick of Panthers forward Evan Rodrigues in the slot, who promptly snapped it over the shoulder of goalie Stuart Skinner to put Florida up 2-1 at 3:11 of the third period on the way to a 4-1 win.

“The teams that you play at this point of the year make the little mistakes seem bigger because they take advantage of them,” Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said. “It’s hard to make any mistakes, whether it doesn’t end up in the back of your net or results in a great chance.

“What we talk about all the time is staying patient and trusting that we don’t need to force anything and eventually we’ll find a way to break through.”

The Oilers are hoping to extend the series with their first win of the Final and get to Game 5 at the Amerant Bank Arena in Sunrise, Florida, on Tuesday. If necessary, Game 6 would be back in Edmonton next Friday.

The 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs are the only team to come back from a 3-0 series deficit in the Final to win the Stanley Cup. The other 27 teams in the situation have gone on to lose the series, 20 of them in sweeps.

“The encouraging part of that is that this series is 3-0, but it doesn’t feel like a 3-0 series,” Oilers forward Zach Hyman said. “For a lot of it, we’re controlling the game and there are moments in the game where we’re giving freebees up and they’re not doing that, they’re playing tight.

“But having said that, you clean those things up and every one of those games, we felt like we’ve had a chance to win.”

The last time Edmonton lost three games in a row was in the regular season -- at home to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Dec. 14 and to Florida Dec. 16 then on the road to the New York Islanders on Dec. 19.

Following the three-game losing streak, the Oilers won 16 straight, one off the NHL record set by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1992-93.

“We’re going to take it one game at a time, and if there’s any team that can do this, it’s this team, I strongly believe that,” Hyman said. “There’s something about this team that we don’t give up.”

Edmonton is leaning on all the adversity it has been through leading to this point to help it extend the series. The Oilers have faced elimination in these playoffs before, down 3-2 in the best-of-7 Western Conference Second Round to the Vancouver Canucks. The Oilers won the last two games of the series to advance to the Western Conference Final, where they defeated the Dallas Stars in six games.

“There’s no more room for error and when there’s no more room for error, we respond and we’ve done it the entire year,” Hyman said. “We’ve done it in this playoffs, we were down 3-2 to Vancouver and there was no more room for error and we probably played two of our better games of the year, so we’re going to respond and that’s about it.”

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