PLAYOFF SERIES: Stanley Cup finals, Hurricanes lead 3-1.
Carolina looks to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup for the first time in franchise history when it meets Edmonton in Game 5 of the finals in Raleigh.
The Hurricanes have easily won only one game in this series, a 5-0 victory in Game 2, but have jumped out to a 3-1 lead thanks to solid goaltending and superb special-teams play.
That trend continued in Game 4 on Monday, when the Hurricanes killed off all five power plays and got 20 saves from rookie Cam Ward in a 2-1 victory at Edmonton. The Oilers have scored only once in 25 power plays during this series, and Ward has posted a 1.76 goals-against average in the first four games.
“We’re not getting outplayed,” Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish said. “We’re getting out-capitalized. They’ve just been more opportunistic on their chances. … It’s the reason we are down 3-1. If we got a couple more power-play goals in the series, we’re at least tied.”
Teams leading 3-1 in the Stanley Cup finals have won the series 26 of 27 times, with only the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs coming back from such a deficit, but the Hurricanes know they still have a lot of work to do.
“This is going to be the toughest game we face now going home,” forward Cory Stillman said. “We need to come out, we need to be better.”
Stillman is a big reason why the Hurricanes are in this position.
He tied Monday’s game in the first period with his ninth goal of the postseason, then set up Mark Recchi’s winner at 15:56 of the second after causing a turnover with a strong forecheck.
Chris Pronger tried to clear the Edmonton zone, but Stillman reached out to get his stick on the puck, which popped up in front of the goal. Eric Staal then jumped to knock it down with his glove and sent a pass to Recchi at the side of the net.
Stillman has a 12-game point streak and is trying for his second straight championship after winning the Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004. He also has 15 assists in 22 games, tying him with Staal atop the postseason scoring list with 24 points.
“Every time you take a step closer to winning, especially four games, it’s important,” Stillman said. “Game 5 is going to be the biggest game we have ever played. … This is the one that could close the series. You know what, we’re looking forward to doing that on home ice.”
In order for the Oilers to return to their home ice for a sixth game on Saturday, they must find a way to score with the man advantage. Edmonton went 1-for-7 on the power play in losing Game 1 and is 0-for-18 in the last three contests.
“They’re boxing us out pretty well,” forward Raffi Torres said. “Their PK forwards are really doing a hell of a job getting in front of shots and forcing us to the outside. We’re going to have work on it and find a way to get through that.”
Jussi Markkanen had another solid game in goal for Edmonton on Monday in place of injured starter Dwayne Roloson. After stopping 24 shots in a 2-1 victory in Game 3, Markkanen made several spectacular saves to keep Game 4 close, including a glove save on Justin Williams early in the third.
Ward, meanwhile, is looking to become the first rookie goalie to lead his team to the Stanley Cup since Patrick Roy did it with the Montreal Canadiens in 1986.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Oilers - 95 points, 8th seed; beat Detroit Red Wings 4-2, Western Conference quarterfinals; beat San Jose Sharks 4-2, semifinals; beat Anaheim Mighty Ducks 4-1, finals. Hurricanes - 112 points, 2nd seed; beat Montreal Canadiens 4-2, Eastern Conference quarterfinals; beat New Jersey Devils 4-1, semifinals; beat Buffalo Sabres 4-3, finals.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Oilers - Fernando Pisani, 10 goals; Pronger, 14 assists and 19 points; Georges Laraque, 44 PIM. Hurricanes - Rod Brind’Amour, 12 goals; Staal, 17 assists; Staal and Stillman, 24 points; Williams and Bret Hedican, 32 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Oilers - Power play: 16.5 percent (20 for 121). Penalty killing: 87.1 percent (122 for 140). Hurricanes - Power play: 24.3 percent (27 for 111). Penalty killing: 86.3 percent (101 for 117).