Panthers’ Maurice: Oilers now have pressure, too

NHL

EDMONTON, Alberta — Florida Panthers coach Paul Maurice believes the pressure in the Stanley Cup Final has “evened out” now that the Edmonton Oilers have rallied to force a Game 6.

The Panthers took a 3-0 series lead before Edmonton won the last two games, thanks in part to back-to-back four-point performances by star Connor McDavid. But while Florida has been “dragged back to Alberta,” as McDavid memorably put it, Maurice believes the Oilers now have their share of the pressure having gotten back into the series.

“When you have nothing to lose, there’s a freedom to that. When you have something to protect, sometimes you feel the pressure to protect it,” said Maurice on Thursday. “So there’s an evening out in this series now. I think the pressure is closer [between us].”

The Panthers have lost twice with the Stanley Cup in the building. It’ll be there again at Rogers Place on Friday, but Maurice believes the Oilers are going to start to sense that expectation to win it, too.

“The stake is there now more for both teams, where it was just for us,” he said. “The goal is closer now for them and now that part evens out, I believe.”

The Panthers arrived back in Edmonton on Thursday having lost Game 5 by a 5-3 score, but having dominated that game for long stretches, including getting over 80% of the shot attempts in the final two periods. Maurice said a lot of that was score effects, as Florida trailed in the game 4-1. He said he actually liked his team’s opening period more than the follow 40 minutes.

What that adds up to is an effort that the Panthers can build on for Game 6, despite losing a second straight game to McDavid and the Oilers.

“We are that team. I mean, we’ve been that team all year,” said forward Matthew Tkachuk of his team’s dominant 5-on-5 play. “We had a little bit of a lapse in Game 4 here for a period and a half. But for the most part, we’ve been pretty consistent with it. We really like our 5-on-5 game. We’re comfortable against anybody in the world with it.”

Game 6 is Friday night at Rogers Place. Edmonton is trying to become just the third team in NHL history to force a Game 7 after opening the Stanley Cup Final with three straight losses – and the second team since the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs to rally to win the Cup.

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