Oilers cling to life with overtime win

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Edmonton's 4-3 victory sends the series back to Alberta for Game 6 on Saturday.

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Edmonton Oilers beat three higher-seeded teams to reach the Stanley Cup finals. They weren't going out that easy.

Fernando Pisani stunned Carolina with a short-handed goal in overtime, giving the Oilers a 4-3 victory in Game 5 on Wednesday night and sending the series back to Alberta.

The Hurricanes lead 3-2, but the Oilers have life. Game 6 is Saturday night in Edmonton.

Carolina had the upper hand when Steve Staios dragged down Mark Recchi breaking toward the Edmonton goal 3 minutes into the extra period. But Cory Stillman, a star of the playoffs, made a lazy cross-ice pass for Eric Staal as the Hurricanes set up a rush.

Pisani stole it at the blue line, broke in all alone on Cam Ward and beat the 22-year-old rookie with a high shot into the corner of the net over Ward's glove at 3:31 of overtime.

"It looked like he was cheating to one side," Pisani said. "I picked the top part of the net to shoot at. It's great -- especially when our backs are up against the wall and it's do or die. That goal was huge."

Staal scored his first two goals of the finals for Carolina, which had a chance to clinch its first Stanley Cup on home ice.

But the team that was born in the old World Hockey Association as the New England Whalers and moved south in 1997 will have to wait at least three more days to sip from hockey's most treasured prize.

The Stanley Cup was packed back up and shipped to Edmonton. If the Oilers -- the first No. 8 seed to reach the finals under the current playoff format -- win again, it's back to Raleigh for a decisive Game 7 on Monday night.

This one was played after the remnants of Tropical Storm Alberto moved through Raleigh, dumping up to 8 inches of rain and flooding a major shopping mall a few miles away from the RBC Center.

But the storm tapered off in the afternoon and Carolina's fans were able to do their usual tailgating outside the arena, whipping themselves into a frenzy by the time they got inside -- only to have the team from Alberta score a stunning goal on the first shot of the game.

Pisani got a stick on Chris Pronger's slap shot from the blue line, deflecting it past Ward only 16 seconds after the opening faceoff. That sparked a wild first period, with the Oilers grabbing a 3-2 lead and the teams combining for more goals than either of the two games in Edmonton produced.

Both teams tightened up considerably over the final two periods of regulation. Staal scored the tying goal midway through the second, and the teams combined for only seven shots on goal in the third.

But the Oilers controlled the overtime, putting seven shots on Ward.

The last one beat him.

Jussi Markkanen, who took over for Dwayne Roloson when Edmonton's playoff star was injured in Game 1, had another solid game. He stopped 21 shots and got a break when Ray Whitney's point-blank shot went off the post with 7:47 left in regulation.

Amazingly, the Hurricanes lost the game on the power play, a part of the game that has given them a huge advantage in the series. Carolina has converted eight of 33 chances with the man advantage, including all three of its goals in Game 5.

But Edmonton, which is 2-of-32 on the power play, managed to score the winner while short-handed.

Staal scored his first goal 6 minutes into the first with Matt Greene off for hooking, capitalizing on a heads-up play by Doug Weight. After Markkanen stopped Staal's initial shot, Weight fanned on the rebound but kicked the puck back to his teammate, who stuffed it past the goalie and hurled himself against the glass to celebrate.

Carolina went ahead for the first time on Whitney's goal four minutes later -- again with Greene in the box for hooking. Weight was right in the middle of things again, this time jumping in front of Markkanen at just the right time so the goalie couldn't see Whitney's shot from the top of the circle.

"We want the cup!" the Carolina fans chanted.

Edmonton didn't fold.

In fact, the Oilers did something downright unusual for this series -- they scored on the power play. Dick Tarnstrom passed off to Art Hemsky in the left circle, and he whipped off a shot over Ward's right shoulder to tie the game at 2.

Before the period was done, the Oilers reclaimed the lead. During a four-on-four, Hemsky sent the puck off the skate of Carolina's Rod Brind'Amour -- and it deflected right to Michael Peca at the side of the net. Peca didn't miss, burying a quick shot just under the crossbar with 17.4 seconds left in a wild 20 minutes.

Staal scored the only other goal in regulation after Staios was called for hooking.

Whitney's shot wide of the net from the point but the puck ricocheted off the grass and came right back toward Markkanen's left skate, protecting the post. The goalie couldn't smother it, however, and Staal managed to push it under the pads for the tying goal at 9:56 of the second.

Notes: Looking to shake things up, Edmonton made a lineup change. LW Todd Harvey played for the first time, and enforcer Georges Laraque was scratched. ... While the Oilers were killing off a penalty, Pronger broke his stick taking a whack at the puck. He then grabbed teammate Rem Murray's stick and played on, making sure Edmonton cleared the zone. ... Carolina D Aaron Ward went out with an upper-body injury early in the second period, and Weight went off in the opening minute of third after getting sandwiched between two Edmonton players, favoring his shoulder. Both players returned to the bench, though Ward was hobbled again when he blocked a shot.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: