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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Panthers’ comeback falls short in Game 5 loss to Oilers

By Adam Lichtenstein South Florida Sun-Sentinel

SUNRISE, Fla. – The Edmonton Oilers started scoring in the third period of Game 3 and have not stopped since.

Edmonton has scored 15 goals to the Florida Panthers’ four since that stretch in Game 3, and it continued its hot streak in Sunrise on Tuesday night, beating Florida 5-3 in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Florida leads the series 3-2.

The Panthers launched a comeback attempt, cutting the deficit to one in the third period, but they could not even the game.

“I’m not feeling deflated,” Florida coach Paul Maurice said. “Neither is the hockey team. They’re not feeling deflated.”

Similar to Game 4, the Oilers took an early lead despite being down a man. Connor Brown scored a shorthanded goal on a breakaway with 14:30 left in the first period.

“That’s got to stop,” Maurice said. “That’s two.”

Florida’s offense went cold for most of the first period, failing to record a shot on goal for more than 14 minutes.

Panthers defenseman Niko Mikkola picked up a penalty at the last moment of the first period, and it proved costly. Evan Bouchard, one of the hardest shooters in the league, fired a shot that deflected off forward Zach Hyman and past Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky on the power play, giving the Oilers a 2-0 lead with 18:02 left in the second period.

Connor McDavid, the Oilers’ superstar, sneaked a shot past Bobrovsky to put Edmonton up 3-0 and quiet Amerant Bank Arena.

“You never want to put yourself behind the eight-ball,” Florida forward Evan Rodrigues said.

Matthew Tkachuk woke the crowd back up with a second-period goal, his first since Game 1 against the Rangers in the conference finals, starting a series of back-and-forth goals.

“He was fantastic,” Maurice said. “He scored a huge goal, and then that line was on fire.”

McDavid weaved his way through Mikkola and fellow Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov so he could feed Corey Perry, who scored on a power play and made Florida’s comeback attempt more difficult. But Rordrigues got one back 14 seconds later to cut the deficit back to two and keep the Panthers in the game.

A Tkachuk feed to Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who shot a one-timer from the point, made it a one-goal game with 15:56 left in the third period. But Florida never got the equalizer, and the Oilers scored an empty-net goal to seal their win.

“I thought we got back to our game a little bit more,” Rodrigues said.

Tkachuk insisted after the game that the team was not feeling any pressure entering Game 6.

“No, no, no,” Tkachuk said. “It’s not an elimination game for us. We’re going up there. We have a 3-2 series lead. We just have to take care of business like we did in Game 3.”

Florida’s quest for its first Stanley Cup will continue in Game 6 in Edmonton, Alberta, on Friday.

“Absolutely nothing has changed for our situation in the last two games except we’ve learned some things,” Maurice said. “Some lessons we don’t need to learn. We’ve learned them enough.”