CANES ON THE BRINK; OILERS WON'T BACK DOWN
RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Edmonton Oilers are not only staring at a 3-1 deficit in the 2006 Stanley Cup Final, they are fighting the tides of history.
Of the 27 clubs who have led 3-1 in the Stanley Cup Final since the best-of-seven format was introduced in 1939, 26 have won the Stanley Cup.
So, the Oilers are now hoping some of the good fortune that turned things around for the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, when they rallied past the Detroit Red Wings, will visit their dressing room in time for Wednesday night's (8 p.m., NBC, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio) Game 5 against the Carolina Hurricanes.
"We'll go play the game and not worry about what's going on around us," defenseman Chris Pronger said. "We have to stay focused and prepared for each shift and not let outside distractions or refereeing or crowds, or whatever, bother us out there."
The Hurricanes have other distractions to master. The team is tantalizingly close to their first Stanley Cup and for a host of veterans on the 'Canes - Glen Welsey, Rod Brind'Amour, Bred Hedican, Doug Weight and Ray Whitney chief among them - are fighting thoughts of finally winning the Stanley Cup.
Carolina's Cory Stillman has been through this before, most recently in 2004 when the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Cup over the Calgary Flames.
"Well, this is going to be the toughest game we face now going home," Stillman said after scoring a goal and assisting on another in Monday's 2-1 win in Game 4. "We need to come out, we need to be better. Every time you ask them if they win or lose, you still have to be better. But this is going to be the toughest game for us that we face is the one that's going to close the series, and you know what, we're looking forward to doing that on home ice."
Brind'Amour, the Carolina captain, said the track record his team has built this season will carry them now.
"That's the one thing about this hockey club all year, we're just kind of focused on the next game," Brind'Amour said. "I think it's good that it comes right away. There's not a couple of games in between like we had. You fly all day, we're right there it's game day. In essence that's probably better."
The Oilers' arrival to Raleigh was delayed Tuesday when their charter jet experienced mechanical problems in Edmonton. That was just the latest in what has become a growing list of technical problems for the Oilers.
The Oilers' power play is just 1-for-25 in the series and is pretty much the biggest item on coach Craig MacTavish's agenda.
"I thought we started the game really well, moved the puck well, and then we were the beneficiary of a number of power plays and lost some momentum through those power plays," MacTavish said of Game 4. "And, then again, we're in the same situation as we were in the first game where we got a five-on-three, a lengthy five-on-three, and you know, I don't know that we had a shot on goal. Might have had one shot on goal on the five-on-three.
"Then we started to get frustrated and the power plays kept coming and we got away from the structure that had made us a pretty formidable power play through the first three series."
"As far as the penalty kill goes, I think it is a lot more structure," Carolina Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette. "I think that you have to have assignments, you have to have routes, you have to execute those routes. You have to be willing to pay a price by blocking a shot, head first if you had to. And I think the biggest thing is execution."
"They're pressuring us pretty good out there along the wall so we've got to find a way to make quicker passes," Oilers center Jarret Stoll said. "We've got to get open out there. Somebody's got to get open. Some passes are a half a second too late and sometimes you're a half a foot out of position to receive the pass.
"They're doing a great job of taking away our shooting lanes. When we put pressure on them, they look pretty calm and they're killing the play for us. A lot of times we had good pressure and nothing came out of it. We're working hard and getting pucks back to the point. We weren't getting to the net, No. 1, and we weren't getting any rebounds or any tips. It's stuff like that that we have to have. Cam Ward is making those first saves and we have to find a way to beat him from other angles and with point shots. I thought they did a pretty good job of checking and making it hard for us on the offensive side."
For both teams, Game 5 will be the hardest of the series for different reasons. While there is no tomorrow for the Oilers, the Hurricanes are not interested in making another trip back to Edmonton, but the Oilers vow to make them book the trip.
"We haven't quit on ourselves all playoffs," Rem Murray said. "We've been down and out in previous series and we've come back. So, our focus is on Game 5. We'll try to win one game and bring them back here."