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Oilers focus on next game, try to ignore prospect of elimination from Stanley Cup Final

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It wasn't technically a must-win game for the Edmonton Oilers, but it was.

Now they're up against some long odds in the Stanley Cup Final having lost the first three games to the Florida Panthers in the playoff series.

The Oilers made a game of it Thursday night against the Panthers, but coming within one goal to tie Game 3 wasn't enough in the 4-3 loss.

Only four times in National Hockey League history has a team come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven set — one them in the Cup Final 82 years ago at the dawn of the Original Six era — for the rare so-called 'reverse sweep.'

Despite that, Oilers players put on a brave face — or call it confidence, bravado, maybe even delusion — when asked about the daunting task of coming back somehow in the quest to lift the Cup.

After all, of the 210 playoff series in NHL history that have seen a team take a three-games-to-none lead, less than two per cent have seen the other come back to win it.

Oilers winger Zach Hyman calmly told media following practice on Friday at Rogers Place he and his teammates "have a strong belief" in themselves.

After all, they've been counted out several times throughout the season — especially early on when the club stumbled to a 2-9-1 record to start the campaign, resulting in a coaching change — nevermind during the playoffs when they got behind in the series against Vancouver and Dallas.

Edmonton Oilers winger Zach Hyman speaks to media after practice on June 14, 2024, at Edmonton's Rogers Place. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)"People have counted us out the entire year, and the odds say that we won't win — that's what all the statistics and the odds say — but the odds said we weren't going to make the playoffs at American Thanksgiving, and multiple times in these playoffs, we've been down," Hyman said, adding he thinks the Oilers are at their best when their "backs are against the wall."

"It's the first time in this series we're facing elimination. We're not thinking too far ahead. We're just thinking about winning one game.

"If there's any team that can do this, it's this team," Hyman said of the prospects of turning the Cup Final around. "I strongly believe that. There's something about this team. We don't give up."

His teammates throughout the dressing room echoed that sentiment, including two more recent additions to the roster in Corey Perry and Adam Henrique, who while they weren't members of the Oilers during the dark days of October and November, say they see the confidence and determination in their teammates.

"There have been some big strides," said Perry, the January veteran free-agent signing who's been to the Cup Final five times now with five different teams, winning it once.

"Some things have happened in this dressing room that some teams will never go through."

'We know we have the ability to do it'

Henrique, too, said the adversity faced by his Oilers teammates has hardened them after being "written off" several times throughout the year.

"They certainly found their game and their rhythm," he said.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, too, mentioned belief in the room and overcoming adversity as cornerstones, adding the Oilers' play in Games 1 and 3 is also something to build on for Saturday's elimination game.

"At the end of the day, all that matters is winning these games, but we've played two really good hockey games, and we know that we have the ability to do it," Nugent-Hopkins, the current longest-tenured Oilers player who joined the team at 18 after being drafted first overall in 2011.

"I think we can take a lot from the season, from the start of the season, even different times throughout the playoffs, we've been down and we haven't given up on each other."  

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