‘Canes blow past Oilers, 5-0
RALEIGH, N.C. ” It didn’t matter who was in goal for Edmonton. Carolina’s Cam Ward turned aside everything the Oilers sent his way, and the Hurricanes were simply unstoppable.
Ward saved 25 shots for his second shutout of the playoffs and the Hurricanes overwhelmed the replacement at the other end of the ice, seizing control of the Stanley Cup finals with a 5-0 rout Wednesday night to go up 2-0 in the series.
“I thought the team was ready from the drop of the puck, which might not have been the case in Game 1,” said Ward, the first rookie to record a shutout in the finals since Montreal’s Patrick Roy against Calgary in 1986. “I thought we played 60 minutes tonight.”
The Oilers didn’t reveal their choice in the nets until Jussi Markkanen led his team onto the ice for the opening faceoff ” the first goalie in 45 years to make his first playoff start in the finals.
After vowing to rally around their new goalie, the Oilers didn’t play with any sort of passion, especially after Cory Stillman scored a backbreaking goal with 2.4 seconds left in the second period to make it 3-0.
Edmonton finds itself in a huge hole heading back to Alberta. Carolina became the 30th team to sweep the first two games of the best-of-seven series at home; the Chicago Blackhawks in 1971 are the only team to blow such a lead, losing to the Montreal Canadiens in seven games.
Game 3 is Saturday night.
“We know we’re going to have to play better when we get out there,” Stillman said. “We’re going to try to get a jump in Game 3. We’ve still got to win four games, and we’re going to try to do it as quickly as possible.”
The Hurricanes poured it on in the final period, getting every break while the frustrated Oilers turned chippy.
Doug Weight appeared to kick in a deflected shot early in the third and the referee waved it off immediately. But, after viewing an overhead replay, it was clear that Weight managed to graze the puck with a swipe of his stick as it was on the way to the net ” making it a legal goal.
The call was overturned, Carolina celebrated and the Oilers fumed. Shortly afterward, Ethan Moreau threw a left-handed punch to the face of Hurricanes defenseman Glen Wesley as the two came together at center ice.
Georges Laraque delivered an even more flagrant hit, pummeling Carolina’s Andrew Ladd with a shot from behind in the closing minutes to get tossed out of the game.
Maybe he was just mad at Ladd, who scored off a deflection in the first period.
Frantisek Kaberle made it 2-0 just past the midway point of the second with a shot through Markkanen’s legs.
The clock was winding down when Stillman pulled off a spectacular play. After Markkanen blocked a deflected shot, Stillman flipped the rebound over the net, went all the way around to get it himself and lifted his second try under the crossbar.
“They always say the worst lead in hockey is 2-0 going to the third period,” Stillman said. “Was it a backbreaker? Maybe it was. I’m sure it was hard for them to swallow with two seconds left.”
The Hurricanes dominated the special teams, scoring three goals on the power play. Edmonton was 0-for-6 with a man advantage.
“The five-on-five play is pretty even,” coach Craig MacTavish said. “They’re more opportunistic at this point in the series than what we’ve been.”
With Moreau in the penalty box, Carolina swarmed in front of Markkanen until Mark Recchi got free in front to deflect the puck past the shellshocked goalie. The Carolina fans spent the rest of the game heckling Markkanen with chants of “You-seee! You-seee!”
Markkanen was picked to fill in after Edmonton’s playoff star, Dwayne Roloson, sustained a series-ending knee injury in Game 1. The 31-year-old Finn had last played on March 1, but MacTavish decided he was a better option than Ty Conklin.
The Oilers’ other goalie took over after Roloson was hurt on Monday and botched a play behind the net in the final minute, allowing Rod Brind’Amour to stuff the puck into an open net for the winning goal in Carolina’s 5-4 victory.
Markkanen didn’t make that sort of blatant blunder, but he didn’t get much help from his teammates.
“Jussi played a fine game for us,” said MacTavish, adding that he only found fault with one goal. “You’re not going to win the game if you don’t score goals.”
The Hurricanes overcame a 3-0 deficit to win the opener ” matching the largest comeback in finals history ” and have now outscored Edmonton 10-1 over the last 83 minutes of the series.
Suddenly, the Oilers look very much like a team that struggled just to make the playoffs, not the squad that swept through the Western Conference with three straight upsets to become the first No. 8 seed to reach the finals under the current format.
The 22-year-old Ward spent most of the regular season watching Martin Gerber from the bench. When the starter struggled in a first-round series against Montreal, the Hurricanes switched to their backup.
That change went a lot more smoothly than Edmonton’s Roloson-to-Conklin-to-Markkanen switch-off.
Ward has played like a seasoned veteran, giving up only one goal in the series that he had even the remotest chance of stopping. He improved to 13-5 in the playoffs, just one win shy of his regular-season mark (14-8).
The youngster is getting plenty of help. The Hurricanes clogged things up in front of the net, making it tough for Edmonton to get any sort of clear look at the net. The other guys blocked plenty of shots, too ” 11 in the first period alone.
“It’s a new beginning, a chance to start from scratch,” Ward said. “I’m just enjoying it. I’m surrounded by a group of teammates who are making me feel right at home.”
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