Canada's Stanley Cup drought lives on as the Oilers fall short in their comeback bid against Florida

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Canada's Stanley Cup drought lives on, with Connor McDavid, hockey-mad Edmonton and the rest of the nation that gave birth to the sport left to wait at least another year for another NHL champion.

After rallying from a series deficit only done twice before in league history to force a deciding Game 7, the Oilers' comeback bid fell short with their loss in Game 7 of the Cup final on Monday night. McDavid and longtime running mate Leon Draisaitl were each held off the scoresheet when it mattered most despite a furious effort in the final moments.

The Oilers were the first team since the 1945 Detroit Red Wings to overcome a 3-0 deficit to force a deciding seventh game in the final. They could not join the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs as the only ones to rally from that position to hoist the Cup and just the fifth to do so in any playoff round.

A team from Canada has not won the Stanley Cup in 31 years and 30 seasons dating to the Montreal Canadiens in 1993. The Oilers were kept from their first title since 1990 and sixth in franchise history.

This trip to the final ended with a heartbreaking Game 7 loss like Edmonton experienced in 2006 at Carolina.

The team's hopes were riding on McDavid, who was held without a point in the Game 7 loss but was brilliant though much of the series and was expected to become just the sixth player to get the Conn Smythe Trophy as the series MVP in a losing effort and just the second skater (Philadelphia's Reggie Leach in 1976).

McDavid like Leach led all scorers in the postseason, and his 42 points were five shy of the record set by Wayne Gretzky in 1985, the first of the Oilers' run of five Cup celebrations during their dynasty days.

The next parade through the streets of Edmonton will have to wait, a blow to the many fans who made the long trek to Sunrise and tens of thousands of others who packed the “Moss Pit" outside Rogers Place. Many of them made up the raucous sellout crowd of 18,000-plus that helped will the Oilers to avoiding a sweep in Game 4 and then again in Game 6 to push them to the verge of accomplishing something not done since World War II.

But they could not complete the comeback, stymied by Panthers captain and Selke Trophy-winning center Aleksander Barkov and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who opened the series by backstopping Florida to a 32-shutout victory.

Earlier Friday, veteran defenseman Mattias Ekholm acknowledged, “We want to come out on the winning side but one team’s not going to do that and hopefully they’ll learn from it.” It’s a painful lesson just like Ekholm went through with Nashville in 2017, losing to Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins in the final.

The questions began immediately for the Oilers with several situations to address in the coming days and weeks. First is owner Daryl Katz and CEO of hockey operations Jeff Jackson's search for a new general manager with the expected retirement of veteran executive Ken Holland, who was unable to secure another Stanley Cup ring before calling it a career.

Whoever is in charge of the day-to-day operations will then need to figure out what to do about Draisaitl, the 2020 league MVP and an elite talent considered one of the top five or 10 players in the world whose contract expires after next season. A buyout of the final three years of goaltender Jack Campbell's contract is likely, and decisions will need to be made on several pending free agents who can hit the open market next week, including forwards Mattias Janmark, Connor Brown and Warren Foegele and defenseman Vincent Desharnais.


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Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press