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Oilers Maintain Hope After Costly Mistakes Leave Them in 3-0 Cup Hole

Oilers 3-0 Stanley Cup deficit

EDMONTON, Alberta — Stuart Skinner is not ready to give up on the Oilers’ Stanley Cup aspirations just yet.

“It’s disappointing being down 3-0, but we have to accept that reality,” the goaltender stated after the Florida Panthers’ 4-3 victory in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Thursday night. “I’m not sure about the stats on comebacks, but if any team can do it, it’s the Oil.”

Here are the stats: Teams leading 3-0 in a best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final have won 27 of 28 series. The sole exception was in 1942 when the Toronto Maple Leafs overturned the Detroit Red Wings.

Out of those 28 series, 20 ended in sweeps. The Panthers are aiming to complete a sweep in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since the Red Wings swept the Washington Capitals in 1998.

Even if the Oilers manage to win Game 4 and send the series back to Florida, 25 of those 28 series have ended in no more than five games.

But the Oilers remain optimistic.

“We’ve shown we can beat this team,” said coach Kris Knoblauch, whose Oilers are now 0-5-0 against the Panthers this season. “There’s strong belief in our locker room. It’s not like we’re getting outplayed. We can string together wins. We’ve demonstrated that before. There’s no doubt among us.”

Knoblauch highlighted two eight-game winning streaks during the regular season and a 16-game streak from December to January.

“There’s frustration being down, but frustration is different from quitting,” he said. “There’s absolutely no quit in us. We believe we can do this, so we need to keep pushing.”

Edmonton did push in the third period on Thursday, with goals from Philip Broberg and Ryan McLeod narrowing the Panthers’ lead to 4-3. However, the critical takeaway was that the Oilers were trailing 4-1 entering the third period—on home ice, in a must-win game, against a team with a plus-15 goal differential in the final frame this postseason.

Their downfall occurred during a 6:19 stretch in the second period when Florida scored three goals. The Oilers had just tied the game at 1-1 with a Warren Foegele breakaway goal. But a turnover by Skinner allowed Eetu Luostarinen to find Vladimir Tarasenko, making it 2-1 and deflating the crowd at 9:12.

At 13:57, solid forechecking by Matthew Tkachuk forced a Darnell Nurse turnover that Sam Bennett capitalized on for his seventh playoff goal, making it 3-1.

ALSO READ:NHL Teams Without Stanley Cup Wins: Full List

Aleksander Barkov completed the scoring for Florida at 15:31, converting a 2-on-1 chance that began deep in Edmonton’s zone.

“After they scored the second, they gained momentum,” Skinner said. “We let them capitalize on that. They got two more quick goals. Just silly mistakes that shouldn’t happen.”

Edmonton’s mistakes accumulated, and their star players didn’t find the net. Foegele, Broberg, McLeod, and Mattias Ekholm scored the goals. The top five playoff scorers—Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Zach Hyman, and Evan Bouchard—did not.

These players also run Edmonton’s power play, which has been ineffective this series as Florida’s penalty kill has gone 10-for-10. Edmonton’s power play entered the series with over 37% efficiency, the best in the postseason.

McDavid has assisted on three of the Oilers’ four goals in the series. He is on pace to become just the second player since 1967-68 to have a point on at least half of his team’s goals in the postseason, joining Wayne Gretzky in 1988.

Draisaitl acknowledged his lack of production.

“It’s very frustrating,” said Draisaitl, who had 28 points in 18 games entering the Final. “I pride myself on performing well in the playoffs and just can’t get anything going. I need to look in the mirror and improve.”

He admitted the Oilers made it too easy for the Panthers in Game 3.

“We made some individual and collective mistakes that they capitalized on,” he said. “We shot ourselves in the foot.”

Despite the setbacks, the team still believes in a comeback.

“We’re a good offensive team,” Draisaitl said. “They’re doing well, but we’re getting our chances. Chasing the game makes it hard to come back. It’s a steep hill, but we’ll take it one game at a time. We’ll aim for a win in Game 4 and go from there.”

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