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 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 narrow 2-1 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.

“We knew it was going be tight — Game 7 for the Cup,” McDavid said. “Knew it was gonna be a real tight game, and it was going to come down to one thing here and there.”

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.

“We came that close,” McDavid said. “We showed all year long that we could fight back, even in the most dire situations. Tough to be down three and tough to string four in a row against a good team like that, but were right there. Right there.”

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

“You can you can analyze it to death if you want to, but at the end of the night when somebody beats you in a seven game series they’re the better team,” veteran defenseman Mattias Ekholm said. "Good for them, but we were darn close and we’re going to be back next year.”

The team’s hopes were riding on McDavid, who was held without a point in Games 6 and 7 but was brilliant though much of the series and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP despite the Panthers' championship.

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.

“You go through an entire year, another 25 games in the playoffs, and you’ve just battled through everything to get the closest you can ever come,” said Zach Hyman, whose 16 goals led all players in the postseason. “I mean, you’re one goal away from sending it overtime. It’s heartbreaking.”

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.

“We gave it everything,” Hyman said.

The questions begin 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.


AP NHL playoffs: and

Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press