Oilers rout the Panthers 8-1 in Game 4 to avoid being swept in the Stanley Cup Final

Edmonton Oilers' Mattias Janmark (13) celebrates with Adam Henrique (19) after Janmark's goal against the Florida Panthers during the first period of Game 4 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Saturday, June 15, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)


EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers are not ready for their offseason to begin, and the Stanley Cup Final is heading back to Florida after they made that statement loud and clear.

McDavid scored his first goal of the series as part of a four-point performance, Stuart Skinner was spectacular in making 32 saves and the Oilers routed the Florida Panthers 8-1 in Game 4 on Saturday night, chasing Sergei Bobrovsky and avoiding a sweep. Game 5 is Tuesday in Sunrise.

“We did our job on the offensive side today, but it’s just one win for us,” star center Leon Draisaitl said. “We have to get better and keep putting it together.”

The Panthers’ party will have to wait after a complete meltdown from a team with many players who have never been this close to hoisting the Cup. Bobrovsky was part of that, getting pulled five minutes into the second period after allowing five goals on 16 shots — more than he gave up in the first three games of the series combined.

Whether it was a last-gasp effort in front of a jacked up home crowd hoping to see the start of a historic comeback or the breakthrough coach Kris Knoblauch has been foreshadowing, the Oilers from Skinner in net out were dominant in every facet of a game they needed to win to keep the NHL season going.

It started with Mattias Janmark scoring 3:11 in on a 2-on-1 rush with Connor Brown. Janmark staked Edmonton to a two-goal lead less than five minutes later, setting up Adam Henrique for his second career goal in the Cup final 12 years after the game-winner for New Jersey that also prevented a sweep in the final.

The odds remain long for the Oilers, given that the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs are the only team to erase a 3-0 deficit at this stage of the playoffs and only four teams total have ever done it.

But the belief will certainly be tangible after breaking out offensively and building a lead rather than holding on to protect it, a quality they had in spades through the first three rounds to win the Western Conference. Florida cutting its deficit to one on Vladimir Tarasenko’s goal midway through the first period did not cause Edmonton to fold, with Dylan Holloway answering with the first of his two goals before intermission and fans cheering the home team leaving the ice.

The offense just kept coming. McDavid, the reigning and three-time NHL MVP beat Bobrovsky early in the second and minutes later set up Darnell Nurse for the defenseman’s first goal of the playoffs. That sent the goalie known as “Bob” to the bench amid derisive chants of “Sergei! Sergei!” as Anthony Stolarz came in for his postseason debut.

The Panthers, hours after family members arrived for a potential celebration more than 2,500 miles from home, took their frustrations out in a handful of post-whistle scrums. One of them gave the Oilers power play more target practice, and the unit that came into the final looking nearly automatic and started 0 for 12 made them pay with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scoring on the 5-on-3 advantage.

McDavid with three assists now has 32 on this run, breaking Wayne Gretzky’s record from 1988 for the most in a single postseason. He had more points Saturday night than in the first three games of the series combined, and he was the Oilers’ leading scorer while other top players were quiet.

At even strength and on the power play, another adjustment by Knoblauch paid off as the playoffs of Edmonton’s rookie coach pushing all the right buttons continued. He moved Nugent-Hopkins down to play with Draisaitl, and each of the first two lines scored a big goal.

The outburst and a comfortable lead got fans going with everything from “We want seven!” to a singalong of Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life.” They got it when Holloway scored with under six minutes left and some extra when Ryan McLeod added the exclamation point with the eighth goal with 3:19 on the clock.

Skinner also heard “STUUUU!” plenty as he had his best game of the final, denying the Panthers on several high-quality scoring chances as they tried to get back into it.

Confidence in the possibility of extending the series that was evident inside the home locker room extended around downtown Edmonton. A fresh sign reading, “BELIEVE” was added to a window around the corner from Rogers Place on Saturday.

Inside, one fan held up a sign saying, “So you’re saying there’s a chance?” And now the Oilers have another chance to put pressure on the Panthers with the series returning to South Florida.


AP NHL playoffs: https://apnews.com/hub/stanley-cup and https://www.apnews.com/hub/NHL