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OILERS STAY ALIVE IN OVERTIME THRILLER

Thursday, 06.15.2006 / 10:14 AM / Los Angeles Kings | News
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OILERS STAY ALIVE IN OVERTIME THRILLER
RALEIGH, N.C. -- While making history, Fernando Pisani broke a lot of hearts in North Carolina on Wednesday night, scoring on a shorthanded breakaway at 3:31 of overtime to give the Edmonton Oilers a 4-3 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final to close the series to 3-2 in Carolina's favor.

Pisani's breakaway goal was the first overtime, shorthanded goal in Stanley Cup Final history. It also was the first overtime, shorthanded goal that prevented a team from being eliminated.

Game 6 will be played Saturday night (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio) at Rexall Place in Edmonton.

Moments after Michael Peca rang a shot off the post, the Oilers appeared to be in deep trouble as defenseman Steve Staios was called for tripping at 3:03, to give the Hurricanes, who had three power-play goals in the game, a golden chance to win both the game and the Stanley Cup.

But Cory Stillman's attempted cross-ice, breakout pass was weak and didn't reach Eric Staal, allowing Pisani unfettered access to goalie Cam Ward, beating him for the winning goal and ruining what thousands of "Caniacs" had hoped would be a memorable Stanley Cup celebration.

"That was probably the biggest goal I've scored in my career," Pisani said. "It was great, especially with our backs against the wall, to score that goal was huge.

"It happened so quickly. I came in, took a quick look and saw he (Ward) cheating on the blocker side and I just shot it in the top half of the net.

"I was in the right place at the time," Pisani continued. "The puck was in my pants and the next thing I knew I was on a breakaway."

"Certainly not what we were hoping for when you get a power play," Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette said. "The power play had been so effective all night and it's an opportunity to win a hockey game and it didn't happen."

Laviolette said his players will be ready for Saturday night's game, despite the bitter disappointment.

"I am sure they are pretty upset," Laviolette said of his players. "Everybody is upset, obviously, but you know, we'll wake up tomorrow and go back to work. It's one game. We'll get up tomorrow, go back to work. Go back to Edmonton."

The Oilers took the play to Carolina in both the third period and overtime, out-shooting the Hurricanes by a combined 12-2 margin, including a 7-0 mark in overtime.

"We took it to them early," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said of the overtime. "You're giving yourself a chance to get back in the series. We really had a sense we were turning the tide and the momentum of the series. With that goal, this puts us right back into it. There is nobody who wanted to see that trophy tonight."

Actually, there were plenty of people who wanted to see the trophy, namely the Hurricanes and the sellout crowd at the RBC Center, but the Oilers also spoiled the party atmosphere early as Pisani deflected a Chris Pronger slap shot past Ward just 16 seconds into the game for a 1-0 Oilers' lead.

"We wanted to get off to a better start," Pronger said. "We certainly did that in getting that quick goal. We wanted to just leave it on the ice and not come in the locker room and say coulda, shoulda, woulda. Throughout the course of the game, we continued to press the issue and not back off. 'Fernie' gets a goal as a result of that."

The Oilers led 1-0 and 3-2 in the first period, but the 'Canes came back to tie it in the second on Staal's second goal and third point of the game. The goal knotted the score, 3-3, as the 'Canes scored their third power-play goal of the night.

With Staios off for hooking Stillman at 8:20, the Hurricanes' connected when Staal was in the right place at the right time, jumping on a wide shot off the backboards that caromed to Oilers goalie Jussi Markkanen and jamming it past the goalie and under the net.

Markkanen complained that he had the puck covered up, but the referee didn't blow the whistle, allowing the tying goal to stand at 9:56.

While that was the lone goal of the period, the action remained fast and furious, but not as chaotic as the first 20 minutes.

Moments after Staal's goal, the Oilers nearly went ahead when Ryan Smyth roared down the left wing and tried a wrap-around. Smyth had Ward beat, but Hurricanes forward Kevyn Adams raced to the crease with his stick along the ice and swiped the puck away.

Edmonton had another opportunity to go ahead in the game at 15:32 when Carolina's Rod Brind'Amour was boxed for high sticking, but the best chance was Carolina's as Kevin Adams' slap shot on a shorthanded 2-on-1 break sailed wide.

The Hurricanes played with five defensemen in the second period after losing veteran defenseman Aaron Ward to an upper-body injury during the first period.

The scoreless third period opened badly for the Hurricanes as center Doug Weight was sandwiched between Pronger and Raffi Torres and skated slowly off the ice in obvious distress, apparently with an injury to his left arm or shoulder.

Shots were rare in the third, with the Oilers leading 5-2. But while there weren't many shots, there were plenty of near-misses. In Weight's absence, the 'Canes shifted Josef Vasicek to center from the fourth-line wing position he had been playing.

Minus Weight and Ward, the 'Canes appeared nearing exhaustion and Carolina taking two penalties didn't help matters much.

But the 'Canes gutted it out and got a boost when Ward returned to the bench and started taking a shift.

"It's an extra month and a half to two months of hockey and it's at the highest level, so guys are getting banged around," Laviolette said. "But it shows a lot of guts to come back.

With Ward as an inspiration, the 'Canes nearly won it when Ray Whitney fired a shot off the post at 12:13. The Oilers also had a great chance at 14:20 when Rem Murray tipped a shot that sailed just wide of the net.

Perhaps Edmonton's best chance of the third came at 18:00 when Todd Harvey and Murray both had good chances from in close, but were unable to find pay dirt.

By the closing minutes of the third, Weight had returned to the bench for the Hurricanes, but didn't see any action as the clock wound down to overtime.

The Oilers scored early and late in the first period and added a power-play goal in between to hold a 3-2 lead after a wild first period that saw emotions run up and down like a roller-coaster.

Edmonton had a 1-0 lead before some in the sellout crowd at the RBC Center had even taken their seats, with Pronger taking a blast from the blue line that Pisani deflected past Ward with the game's first shot just sixteen seconds in.

Carolina countered with a power-play goal at 5:54 with Edmonton defenseman Matt Greene in the box for hooking. The goal was all Staal, who took a nice pass from Bret Hedican and put a shot on goal that was stopped by Markkanen. Staal swooped in and took another shot that was blocked by Markkanen, but the Oiler goalie couldn't stop the third try, which Staal slammed into the net. Staal keyed the entire play, causing a turnover in the Edmonton zone to start the play.

A second penalty to Greene, this time for holding at 9:06, cost the Oilers as the Hurricanes' second power-play unit roared on to the ice with Ray Whitney drilling a shot from the right circle through a double screen set by Mark Recchi and Doug Weight to beat Markkanen on the stick side at 10:16.

A hooking call on Matt Cullen at 11:40 saw the maligned Edmonton power play, 1-for-25 entering the game, with an 0-for-18 streak still rolling, come alive. Ales Hemsky scored the goal at 13:25 on a booming one-timer from the left circle off a slick pass from defenseman Dick Tarnstrom that found a sliver of room over Ward's shoulder. Staios also picked up an assist on the power-play goal that ended the Edmonton man-advantage skid.

The Oilers took a 3-2 lead with just 17.4 seconds left in the period and with both teams skating four players apiece. Michael Peca did the damage after a drive from in close by Hemsky was stopped. The puck came to Peca's feet and he lifted the puck high into the net to give the Oilers a lead after one.