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Playoff benching pushes Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner ‘to fight my way’

Stuart Skinner wasn’t happy — with himself or the situation.

The Oilers goaltender had been pulled after surrendering four goals on just 15 shots as part of a 4-3 loss to the Canucks in Game 3 of the teams’ second-round playoff series.

Skinner and his .793 save percentage through three outings against Vancouver took a seat two nights later with the club trailing the best-of-seven matchup 2-1.

Calvin Pickard — a dependable, journeyman backup — would start the next two contests, posting a win and a loss.

Skinner, Edmonton’s No. 1 option most of the regular season, rejoined the action with the Oilers facing elimination down 3-2 in the Pacific Division showdown, stopping 14 of 15 shots in a 5-1 victory before a 15-save performance in a 3-2 triumph in Game 7 punched Edmonton’s ticket to the Western Conference final.

The 25-year-old hasn’t really looked back following his reset.

WATCH | Oilers push Panthers to Game 6 of Stanley Cup final:  

Oilers push Panthers to Game 6 of Stanley Cup Finals

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Duration 2:12

After being down in the best-of-seven series 3–1 against the Florida Panthers in the Stanley Cup finals, the Edmonton Oilers have managed to keep it going for one more game after winning 5–3.

Skinner outduelled Dallas Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger in the third round and has been the better netminder the last two outings in the Stanley Cup final against Sergei Bobrovsky — a brick wall early now showing some serious cracks — as the Oilers have responded from a 3-0 deficit to force Game 6 at home Friday.

“It pissed me off, first and foremost,” Skinner said of getting benched against Vancouver.

“It really sucked — pushed me to find my game and do absolutely everything I can, no matter what happens, to fight my way and give my team a chance to win.”

The born-and-raised Edmonton goaltender has done exactly that, helping to steer the franchise he cheered for growing up within two victories of its sixth title.

Down 3-0 and facing elimination in Game 4 on Saturday against the Panthers, Skinner was terrific early before the Oilers turned on the gas in an 8-1 home drubbing.

Again with no margin for error in Game 5 back down in South Florida, he robbed Aaron Ekblad in Tuesday’s first period to afford his group the opportunity to find its footing before Connor McDavid went off with a second consecutive four-point performance — his eight points the most over a two-game span in the history of the final.

WATCH | Oilers fans keep hope alive for Stanley Cup: 

Oilers fans keep hope alive for Stanley Cup

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Duration 1:18

After a tense end to Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals, the Edmonton Oilers have kept their dreams alive and are headed back to the city of champions for another contest against the Florida Panthers. CBC’s Nancy Carlson was on hand at Ice District in Edmonton and met up with some fans who will never lose hope.

That might not have been the case if not for Skinner’s earlier heroics.

“Ever since he came back in he’s been a rock,” Oilers winger Corey Perry said. “He’s been there for us.”

“We believe in each other,” Skinner added. “To show it and to actually do it — that’s everything.”

His save percentage since getting his net back stands at .912 over 13 starts, including stopping a combined 72-of-76 shots in three straight victories after Edmonton fell behind Dallas 2-1 last round.

And after getting overshadowed by Bobrovsky, who blocked 82-of-86 pucks directed his way in three Florida victories to open the Cup series, his save percentage stands at .938 over the last two games.

“I’m the same, but I’m different,” Skinner said when asked how he’s changed since getting the hook in Vancouver. “I was able to learn and refresh my mind, get a little rest in and just really focus.”

Much the same way his teammates have improved as series have worn on this spring.

“We’ve been able to grind,” Skinner said. “We put ourselves in a little bit of a hole.

“We’re just going to keep on digging and climb our way out.”

Skinner shared that he recently had a conversation about Martin Brodeur. The Hall of Fame goaltender would let in six one night, and be unbeatable the next.

Parking a poor performance was the key.

“That’s something that I try to chase,” Skinner said. “Not saying that I do a great job at it all the time, but it’s definitely a work in progress.”

Edmonton sits two victories from becoming just the second team in NHL history — and the first in 82 years — to win the Cup after trailing the championship series 3-0.

If the improbable happens, Skinner will be a massive part of the story.

“Can never count the Oil out,” he said.

Or, as it turns out, their goalie.

WATCH | The 130-year history of the Stanley Cup and why players won’t touch it: 

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CBC Kids News contributor Arjun Ram explains the history of the most famous trophy in hockey: the Stanley Cup.

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