EDM shift focus to GM5 tune in tonight

EDMONTON -- It took four games, but the Edmonton Oilers finally found their Stanley Cup Final form.

An 8-1 win against the Florida Panthers in front of a home crowd at Rogers Place as boisterous as it was loud Saturday night kept them alive and avoided the sweep.

“I’m sure outside, the belief starts to grow a little bit, but we’re just focused on one game,” Oilers forward Zach Hyman said. “And we bought ourselves another couple days here.”

The trick now is to make sure they replicate the same result when the best-of-7 series returns to Florida on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET, ABC, ESPN+, SN, TVAS, CBC) with the Panthers leading 3-1.

And then do it once more the game after that. And the game after that one too.

The Oilers have to win three more games in a row, of course, but the good news is they don't have to do it all at once.

“Yeah, I mean, it’s one game,” said Mattias Janmark, whose first-period goal Saturday opened the floodgates for three first-period goals, followed by three more in the second. “You can look as far as you want, but we’re not getting back here unless we come out and play a really good game in Florida.

“So, that’s where our focus is going to be, for sure.”

SCF, Gm4: Panthers @ Oilers Recap

It would be the ultimate rope-a-dope, Muhammad Ali style, after sitting back on the ropes and taking a beating as the opposition sapped their strength. At the same time, holding theirs in reserve for a last-minute barrage of blows to keep the bad guys on their heels before winding up for the knockout blow.

And the time for the long-awaited flurry of fists has come, with the Oilers outscoring the Panthers 10-1 over the past four periods, going back to the final frame of Game 3. Prior to that point, it was Florida with an 11-1 goal differential in the first eight periods of the series.

Not that it matters much, at this point.

“No, I don’t think so. It’s just one win, that’s all it is,” said Oilers captain Connor McDavid, who scored a goal and had three assists to contribute to his Stanley Cup Playoff-leading 38 points (six goals, 32 assists), while breaking Wayne Gretzky's NHL record in assists during a single postseason. “It doesn’t matter if you scored eight or if you scored one, it’s just one win.

“And we’ve got to go to Florida and do a job, and drag them back to Alberta.”

Unlike an Ali bout, this strategy was hardly rehearsed, but more so the product of desperation by a team that is no stranger to adversity this season, having had to dig down deep and pull themselves out of a 2-9-1 start to the season.

The did so with impressive streaks of eight and 16 consecutive wins to climb not only into a playoff position, but earn home-ice advantage through the Western Conference First Round as the No. 2 seed in the Pacific Division.

“I feel we’re most comfortable when our backs are against the wall,” Oilers forward Connor Brown said. “That’s kind of what we showed at the beginning of the year when we were dead last, our backs against the wall and we came out and had some historic runs, so I think we’re a new club in that regard

“When we get in a rhythm and we get playing our brand of hockey, we know what it feels like and (Saturday) night, we knew exactly what it feels like. We’re a scary club.”

But they haven’t held home-ice advantage to start a series since the opening round, and now must go on the road not once, but twice more if they want to defeat the Panthers and win the Cup.

“I think we understand what it feels like,” Brown said. “I mean, they’re going to be on home ice. It’s not going to be easy, but we know what the kind of recipe is and now that it’s fresh in our minds, just replicate that recipe.”

This time, of course, the Panthers will be doing everything in their power to avoid another trip back to Edmonton for Game 6.

“I think the biggest thing for us is not to get too high,” said Oilers forward Dylan Holloway, who had two goals and an assist. “Obviously, it was a massive win, but we still know what the circumstances are, we’re still down 3-1.

“So, the biggest thing for us is just to forget that and still use it, knowing that we can do it, but just move forward.”

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