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Edmonton Oilers force Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Finals with a 5-1 win over the Florida Panthers

By Homero De la Fuente and Amy Woodyatt, CNN

(CNN) — Extending an improbable comeback from a three-game deficit, the Edmonton Oilers forced a deciding Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Finals with a 5-1 win over the Florida Panthers Friday night.

With the best-of-seven series level at three games apiece, the teams will return to Florida Monday night in a final showdown for the championship.

The Oilers weren’t done with their quest to end Canada’s decades-long Stanley Cup drought, and fought back for a chance to win it all. After falling to an 0-3 deficit, the Oilers became only the third team in Stanley Cup Final history to force a decisive Game 7, joining the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1942 and Detroit Red Wings in 1945.

“It’s crazy. I mean there’s a strong belief in our locker room. The fans, everybody believes in us. It’s special to play here, it’s special to play in front of this crowd to force a Game 7,” Oilers forward Zach Hyman said after the game.

Edmonton opened up the scoring in the first period, when Warren Foegele buried a feed from Leon Draisaitl into the back of the net for the 1-0 lead. The Oilers then doubled their lead 46 seconds into the second period, as Edmonton took advantage of a 2-on-1 with Adam Henrique finishing off a pass from Mattias Janmark for the 2-0 lead.

Florida seemed to have taken one back seconds after the face-off, when Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov hammered home a rebound past Oilers netminder Stuart Skinner. However, Edmonton challenged for offside, and the goal was overturned after replay officials ruled Florida’s Sam Reinhart preceded the puck into the offensive zone and was offside prior to the goal.

The NHL released a statement explaining the decision to overturn the goal: The standard for overturning the call in the event of a ‘GOAL’ call on the ice is that the NHL Situation Room, after reviewing any and all available replays and consulting with the On-Ice Official(s), determines that one or more Players on the attacking team preceded the puck into the attacking zone prior to the goal being scored and that, as a result, the play should have been stopped for an ‘Off-Side’ infraction; where this standard is met, the goal will be disallowed.”

Despite the Panthers holding the territorial advantage in the second period, It was the Oilers who did all of the scoring. Hyman gave Edmonton a 3-0 lead after converting on a breakaway with 1:40 remaining in the second period for his 16th goal of postseason.

Hyman’s 16 goals are the most in a single postseason since Joe Sakic had 18 goals in the 1996 Stanley Cup playoffs. He also became the third active player to score 70 total goals in a single season (regular season and playoffs), joining current teammate Connor McDavid (72 in 2022-23) and former teammate Auston Matthews (70 in 2023-24).

The Panthers finally got on the board early in the third period, as Barkov expertly skated around Oilers defenders for the goal to cut the deficit to two-goals. However, empty-net goals by Ryan McLeod and Darnell Nurse removed all doubt of a Panthers comeback.

The Oilers were bottom of the NHL overall standings at one point after a 2-9-1 start to the season.

“I think it’s just an unshakeable belief, we’ve talked about it a bunch and no matter what happens throughout the year we always believed that we could pull through. No matter how dire the circumstances, we think we have a chance. It was a long season facing adversity to prepare us to battle back but the next one is going to be the hardest,” Hyman said.

Four teams have come back to win a series after falling behind 0-3 in NHL postseason history, but only once has a reverse sweep happened in the Stanley Cup Final – more than 80 years ago, when the Maple Leafs rallied to defeat the Red Wings in 1942. NHL teams that have gone up 3-0 in a series are 206-4 all-time in league history.

If they manage to come back and win the series, the Oilers will finally end a three-decade Stanley Cup drought for Canadian teams – the Montreal Canadiens were the last to lift the Cup back in 1993

Game 7 is on Monday at the Amerant Bank Arena in Sunrise, Florida.

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CNN’s Kevin Dotson contributed reporting.

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