Connor McDavid and teh Oilers have a chance at NHL inmortality. GETTY IMAGES

After erasing a 3-0 deficit in the series, Edmonton hopes to become just the second NHL team to make it all the way back against the Panthers, who lost last year's Finals and face the troubling scenario of a historic choke on home ice on Monday.

Canada against the United States. A traditional hockey town with a storied legacy versus an expansion franchise from the 90s in the Sunshine State. The current great hockey hope Connor McDavid facing a plethora of Russian stars led by veteran netminder Sergei Bobrovsky. The underdog and almost defeated team who forced a winner-takes-all final on the same stage where the Eastern Conference champions were planning to celebrate just a week ago… It's Oilers-Panthers with the two most cherished words among North American sports fans: Game 7.

It's been a whirlwind of a series, with Florida finally thinking the third time might be the charm after winning the first three games by 3-0, 4-1 and 4-3. The Panthers, who have never conquered ice hockey’s most prized trophy, had been to the Finals in 1996 and last year but lost both times, first to the Colorado Avalanche, then against the Las Vegas Golden Knights. Their leader and alternate captain, Matthew Tkachuk, boasts quite the pedigree as the son of former NHL legend Keith Tkachuk, but a second straight loss in the biggest stage, and of this magnitude, would represent quite a blow to his legacy.

Edmonton, who hadn’t reached this level since 2006 when it lost to the Carolina Hurricanes in seven, managed to get back in contention by winning three straight by a combined score of 18-5, the last a 5-1 affair which saw video replay intervene to disallow an Aleksander Barkov goal for the Panthers, and now has a final chance at immortality.

It's just the third time in Stanley Cup Finals history that a team with such a deficit comes back to tie the series, after the Toronto Maple Leafs went all the way to defeat the Detroit Red Wings in 1942; and it almost went the other way around in 1945, with Detroit able to even things up but failing to put a bow on it in Game 7.

"Everyone in the locker room believes in us," Oilers left wing Zach Hyman said after Game 6. "There's an unshakable belief in this bunch. No matter how dire the circumstances are, we always believe we have a chance."

Florida's European-heavy lineup features Finland's Barkov, Bobrovsky and fellow Russians Dmitry Kulikov on defense and Vladimir Tarasenko at the right wing spot, posting quite the contrast with Edmonton’s homebased approach, with up to 24 Canadians on its roster, mainly from Ontario, and just four players from abroad: three Swedes and a German. The last franchise from ice hockey-crazed Canada to lift the Stanley Cup was the Montreal Canadiens in 1993, just as the Panthers were founded.

Edmonton hasn’t enjoyed a championship parade since the last of the dynasty years in 1990 when a loaded team won five titles in seven seasons. Those were the days were star-studded franchises ruled the NHL, as the New York Islanders won four straight cups at the beginning of the 80s and then the Oilers took over with Wayne Gretzky, also known as The Great One, leading the charge next to the likes of Mark Messier, Jari Kurri and Paul Coffey.

Vladimir Tarasenko and the Panthers hope to avoid a choke in G7. GETTY IMAGES
Vladimir Tarasenko and the Panthers hope to avoid a choke in G7. GETTY IMAGES

Canada holds the edge in Winter Olympics gold medals when it comes to ice hockey with nine, plus four silver and three bronze, while Russia features second on the list with seven, one and one, and the US is a distant third at two, eight and one. But the country where kids start skating in ponds during winter season and the sport is almost a religion is starving for a feel-good story at the club level; and what better than to come back from the longest odds to defeat one of the franchises that pulled the NHL towards climate-challenged areas in the 90s?

Edmonton, who then started its long downfall towards hockey mediocrity, could now become only the second team in NHL history to complete a Stanley Cup rally; and Kris Knoblauch’s squad already has Game 7 experience in these Playoffs, after defeating the Vancouver Canucks, also as visitors.

The start to the Oilers’ season in no way forecasted such a possibility come June, as they lost nine of their first 12 games, which forced the club to fire coach Jay Woodcroft and replace him with Knoblauch in November; but the improbable run included defeating the Rangers, the team that posted the best regular season record, and the most recent shift in momentum.

Then again, the Panthers have their own demons to fight after two failed attempts at the Stanley Cup and three squandered series leads in these Finals. Will the chance at glory outweigh the fear of defeat? Only one two-word answer for Edmonton, Florida and the sports world watching: Game 7.