HURRICANES GRAB 2-0 SERIES LEAD
The Carolina plan was to get back to playing the brand of hockey that brought the 'Canes to the Stanley Cup Final, and Wednesday night, they did, posting a 5-0 shutout against the Edmonton Oilers to take a 2-0 series lead with Game 3 in Edmonton on Saturday night (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio).
Cam Ward stopped 25 shots to earn the shutout, and defenseman Frantisek Kaberle lead the scoring for the 'Canes with a goal and two assists. Mark Recchi had a goal and an assist and Matt Cullen had three assists.
Carolina also won the special-teams battle, scoring three power-play goals, while stopping six Edmonton power plays. The Hurricanes also had 24 blocks in the game, many coming during those Edmonton power plays.
"Specialty teams win games and we were getting a lot of bounces tonight," Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette said.
"Tonight, we wanted to play a whole lot better and from the defensive zone to the offensive zone we were much better," Ward said. "We had much better energy. We felt good, confident and calm."
"We have been relying on (Cam Ward) for far too much lately," said Stillman, who scored the decisive goal with 2.4 seconds left in the second period to turn a 2-0 Carolina lead to 3-0.
"He just kind of flies under the radar," Laviolette said of Stillman. "The only thing that kept him from having a better season this year than last year (2004) in Tampa Bay were his injures. We needed more skill and he added that."
The Oilers return to Edmonton hoping home cooking will do the trick. Markkanen replaced the injured Dwayne Roloson in goal and surrendered five goals on 26 shots, but the goalie deserved a better fate as the Hurricanes had plenty of odd-man rushes and several of the goals were the results of bounces going Carolina's way.
"We were guilty of being overaggressive early in the game," Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish said. "A lot of us are trying to do too much. We have a situation where we have a bunch of players trying to be difference makers. We need a predictable game out of a lot of our players."
Carolina led 1-0 after one, 3-0 after two and put the game away in the third.
Rookie Andrew Ladd converted a two-on-one at 6:21 to give the Hurricanes an early lead. Oilers defenseman Stave Staios, known for his predictable games, had been caught deep, and Kaberle chipped the puck out to Eric Staal, who broke in on the Oilers net against defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron. Ladd took the puck from Staal and wristed a shot off the skate of Bergeron and past Markkanen's glove for the lead.
Goals by Kaberle and Stillman boosted the Carolina lead to 3-0 after two periods.
The Oilers had killed off a five-on-three power play, thanks to tremendous work by defensemen Chris Pronger and Jaroslav Spacek in front of Markkanen. That kill seemed to energize the Oilers, but an interference call on Raffi Torres took the wind out of their sails when Kaberle moved to the hash marks between the circles and hauled in a pass from Ray Whitney and sent an off-speed shot under Markkanen at 10:28 of the second.
Ward also sparkled in the second period, perhaps not to the extent of his Game 1 brilliance, but he still made critical second-period stops on Sergei Samsonov and Fernando Pisani to keep the Oilers off the board.
Ward again was great on a prolonged Edmonton flurry with 3:19 left in the second, and fortune did not smile on the Oilers when Shawn Horcoff got the puck with Ward down and out, but his backhand shot went over the net.
MacTavish was critical of his team's offensive play, noting the Oilers never got themselves in position to lift the puck over Ward and were continually shoveling the puck under him.
Lady Luck continued to shun Edmonton late in the period when Stillman scored with 2.4 seconds left to make it 3-0.
With the 'Canes pressing, Stillman got the rebound of a Niclas Wallin shot to Markkanen's left and flipped the puck high across the crease. Stillman gave chase and beat the Edmonton defenders to the puck, which he put into the empty net.
"There's 13 seconds left and it's a two-goal lead and we know we can come back from that. We've done it before," MacTavish said. "Then we botch a play and it's 3-0.
But we've been in these situations before (against San Jose, the Oilers also dropped the first two games). It's a little more humbling when it's 5-0," MacTavish said. "We're a little rattled from that."
MacTavish did not blame Markkanen and indicated he will be back in for Game 3.
"He should have more confidence going into Game 3," he said. "He did a lot of good things."
The Hurricanes scored two power-play goals in the third period to salt the game away.
A goalie interference call on Samsonov at 1:31 proved costly when Doug Weight converted with the man advantage to make it 4-0 at 2:21.
The goal was initially waved off by referee Bill McCreary when Weight appeared to kick the puck into the net, but video replay showed Weight kicked the puck off his stick, hence the goal was legal and counted. Mark Recchi and Matt Cullen assisted on the goal.
The frustrated Oilers took another penalty as Ethan Moreau was boxed for roughing at 2:47, leading to a nice deflection goal by Recchi after a sustained flurry by the 'Canes, giving Carolina a 5-0 lead and making the night that much longer for Markkanen, who deserved a better fate.