Connor McDavid, Oilers clinch series with Stars in Game 6

League: NHL

Posted on: 03 Jun, 2024 at 05:28 AM

Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and the Edmonton Oilers have finally taken that big leap forward. Thanks to a nail-biting 2-1 home victory over the Dallas Stars on Sunday, Edmonton's two superstars are off to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in their careers.

"It probably hasn't sunk in yet," Draisaitl told Sportsnet. "Very excited. We put in a lot of work. It was an up-and-down year, especially early on, and (we) really battled adversity."

The Oilers, who last reached the championship round in 2006, will face the Florida Panthers, a series featuring the farthest distance between teams in finals history, in a best-of-seven affair that kicks off on Saturday in Sunrise, Fla.

Edmonton last won the Stanley Cup in 1990, while the Panthers have never claimed hockey's holy grail. Florida lost last year's final to the Vegas Golden Knights.

The Oilers punched their ticket to hockey's biggest stage by beating the Stars in six games in the Western Conference finals, claiming the final three games of the series.

McDavid netted one goal and recorded one assist in Game 6, and Zach Hyman's first-period tally held up as the game-winner. Defenseman Evan Bouchard notched a pair of assists and goaltender Stuart Skinner made 34 saves on a night his team was outshot 35-10.

"I can't say enough good things about him," McDavid said about his netminder. "A lot of people doubted him. A lot of people said things about him, but he's done nothing but stand in there for us and stand tall. I'm so happy for him."

Mason Marchment scored the lone Dallas goal, and goalie Jake Oettinger stopped eight shots.

The Oilers won only two of their first dozen regular-season games and sat 31st in the league standings on Nov. 12, when coach Jay Woodcroft was fired and replaced by Kris Knoblauch. Reaching the final was a whale of a climb.

"We always knew how good of a team we had in here and how tight this group is here," Draisaitl said. "I can't stress it enough. It wasn't easy, wasn't an easy beginning to the year, but we all dug in and pulled ourselves out."

McDavid's highlight-reel power-play goal opened the scoring at 4:17 of the first, coming on his team's first shot on net for his fifth goal of the playoffs.

Hyman added another man-advantage marker at 15:42 of the first period by ripping a top-corner shot from the slot for his league-best 14th goal of the postseason.

Marchment finally solved Skinner at 9:18 of the third period, but Dallas -- the conference's regular-season champion -- could not find the equalizer.

"Hockey's hard. You need a lot of things to go right," Stars forward Tyler Seguin said. "We lost to a team we thought we could beat. Sometimes, that's the playoffs. Sometimes, it's that one bounce, one goal, one save."

Dallas failed to score during three power-play opportunities on Sunday and failed to record a man-advantage marker during the whole series. Edmonton has successfully killed 28 short-handed situations in its past 10 postseason games.

"Gutted. It's the only word I can feel when you lose a game like that," Stars coach Peter DeBoer said. "I'm proud of our group. Proud of our fight. Proud of our battle. You're just gutted. They did leave everything out there and should be going to play a Game 7, but we're not. You have to give Edmonton credit."

--Field Level Media