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Stanley Cup Final: McDavid, Oilers' defense hold off Panthers, force Game 6

UPI

June 18 (UPI) -- Edmonton Oilers players poked, dove and scrambled in a hectic final minute, preventing a Florida Panthers comeback Tuesday to win Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final and extending the best-of-seven-game series.

Connor McDavid powered the offense, registering two goals and two assists in the 5-3 triumph at Amerant Bank Arena in Sunrise, Fla. The Oilers held a 4-1 lead late in the second period before allowing the Panthers to claw back into contention.

"I love playing in the playoffs," McDavid told reporters. "I love playing with this group. It's not possible without everybody. It's been a fun ride and we're glad it's going to go one more day.

"But that's all we've earned here is another day, another flight."

Defenseman Evan Bouchard logged three assists for the Oilers. Forwards Zach Hyman, Connor Brown and Corey Perry also scored. Forwards Matthew Tkachuk and Evan Rodrigues each recorded a goal and assist for the Panthers.

The Panthers lead the Oilers 3-2 in the series. Game 6 will be Friday in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

The Oilers, who staved off elimination for the second-consecutive game, are attempting to become just the second team in NHL history to overcome a 3-0 deficit to win a Stanley Cup Final -- joining the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs.

"I know a lot of guys counted us out," Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch said. "We've been counted out a lot through the playoffs, regular season, whatever. But it doesn't phase the group in there. They have a lot of belief and just enjoying every extra day."

Brown drew first blood with a backhand shot 5:30 into Game 5. That unassisted, shorthanded score was triggered when the Oilers forward intercepted a pass during a Panthers power play.

He threw his stick in front of the feed from defenseman Brandon Montour, poking the pass toward the Panthers net. He then darted forward, gained control of the puck and flipped in a shot past goal tender Sergei Bobrovsky's stick side and into the net.

The Oilers' defense smothered the Panthers, not allowing a shot for the final 14 minutes of the first period. Hyman then doubled the lead with a power-play score 1:58 into the second period.

McDavid skated above the left circle and sent a pass to Bouchard on his right to start that sequence. Bouchard then unleashed a shot toward the net. The shot hit Hyman in the leg and deflected into the net for a 2-0 lead.

McDavid added another Oilers score with a wrist shot about 3 minutes later, but the Panthers offense quickly responded.

Tkachuk scored the first goal of the rally, beating net minder Stuart Skinner with a snap shot 6:53 into the second period. McDavid and Bouchard assisted Perry on a power-play score about 5 minutes later, but the Panthers closed the gap with another second-period goal from Rodrigues.

Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson cut the deficit to one with another Panthers score 4:04 into the third period, but Florida -- which held a 26-14 edge in shots on goal over the final 40 minutes -- didn't score again.

Skinner denied a barrage of shots down the stretch, when the Panthers pulled Bobrovsky in favor of bringing another attacker onto the ice.

McDavid clinched the victory when he scored on the empty net with 19 seconds remaining.

The Oilers (2-3) will host the Panthers (3-2) in Game 6 will be at 8 p.m. EDT Friday in Edmonton. Game 7, if necessary, will be Monday in Sunrise.