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Desperate Oilers remain defiant: 'We can do it'

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Published in Hockey
Friday, 14 June 2024 14:40

EDMONTON, Alberta -- Corey Perry is the only Oilers player with a Stanley Cup ring, winning with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007. As his team faces elimination in Game 4 against the Florida Panthers on Saturday night, Perry's message to his teammates is clear: Play like it's the last time you'll ever be in the Stanley Cup Final.

"How do you know that there's going to be another time? That's the biggest thing you can put in your mind is there might not be another time. I bet you half these guys will never play in the Stanley Cup Final again. It's just the reality of sports," Perry said on Friday. "And that's where you put that fight in. That's what you have to go home today and think about."

The Oilers lost Game 3 of the Final, 4-3, on Thursday. A series of miscues in the second period allowed Florida to take a 4-1 lead in front of a stunned Edmonton crowd. The Oilers rallied with two goals in the third period, but forward Leon Draisaitl said, "When you're chasing the game for a big chunk of the night, it's just hard to come back."

Perry acknowledged that morale was low after the loss, which put Edmonton down 0-3 in the series.

"Last night was tough. It was pretty somber here after the game. It's not easy when you go down 3-0 and you play a pretty good game, make a few mistakes and they end up in the back of the net," he said. "Those things happen in sports. You gotta get over it."

The hours ahead of Game 4 won't be a reinvention of the Oilers' game. While their top five scorers have yet to notch a goal in the series -- including stars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl -- Edmonton has generated chances against a Florida defense that ranked first in the regular season. Panthers coach Paul Maurice said the series could have easily been 3-0 in favor of Edmonton with how tightly the games have been played, with goalie Sergei Bobrovsky frequently being the difference for Florida.

"I feel like through three games, have we deserved to win a game? I think so. I think we've played two at least pretty good games," Oilers defenseman Mattias Ekholm said. "It hasn't happened for us, but it is four games. We had stretches of eight games and 16 games throughout the regular season. We won three straight against Dallas. So we can do it. It's a matter of just finding that first win and go from there."

If there's one overriding mantra in the Oilers' locker room, it's that they've put together long winning streaks during the season. Goalie Stuart Skinner said after Game 3 that "if anyone can do it, it's the Oil," and his teammates echoed that.

"Well, this team won 16 games in a row during a regular season. And yes, they're not all against Florida, but you look at the way we played," Perry said. "The spurts we've played in. We can play with that. We know that. We've shown it. It's a matter of will and want."

Forward Zach Hyman, who also doesn't have a point in this series, agreed that the odds are against Edmonton winning the Cup -- but that they've defied the odds this season.

"The odds said that we weren't going to make the playoffs at American Thanksgiving and multiple times in these playoffs we were down, too," he said. "I think we play our best when our backs are against the wall and facing elimination."

That's where the Oilers find themselves after three games, knowing that 20 of the 28 teams that took a 3-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Final ended those series in a sweep -- and that only one team, the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, ever rallied to win after digging a 0-3 hole.

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