Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Looking for the place between that rock and the hard place? It’s called Edmonton!

Game Four had all the potential to be one of those tide turning experiences, an opportunity to change the destiny of the destination for the Stanley Cup. But by the time the sixty minutes of play had finished at Rexall Place in Edmonton, the Carolina Hurricanes were the one with destiny seemingly on their side and that tide had shifted like a hurricane force wind might change direction suddenly and head for shore.

The Oilers had all the elements on their side Monday night, the huge crowd once again loud, boisterous and ready to cheer on their favourite sons on to tying the series up at two apiece. And for a while there, it looked like they were going to get their wish.

The Oilers came out flying in the first period and took the play and the hits to the Hurricanes putting them on their heels a bit for the first fifteen minutes of play. Things go positively giddy when at 8:40 of the first period, Sergei Samsanov put away that first goal of the game behind Cam Ward, the Oilers taking the lead 1-0 and looking like they were ready to take control of yet another NHL playoff series.

But, before the Rexall crowd could even celebrate that goal properly Raffi Torres took a stupid tripping penalty off the face off. The Hurricanes took little time to score the equalizing goal, silencing the Oiler faithful for a brief period of time as shock registered around the rink that the Hurricanes were not going to fold up and wait for the end of the game.

Carolina’s Cory Stillman capitalized on the Torres penalty a short 29 seconds later and that set the pace of the game for the remainder of the first period. At 15:46 of the second the Hurricanes would score their second goal of the night and as things turned out the winning goal in game four, as Mark Recchi took a feed from Eric Staal to put the Hurricanes ahead 2-1 and one win away from claiming the Cup. The winning Hurricane goal came off an uncharacteristically poor clearing play by Oiler stand out Chris Pronger, making for one of his few mistakes in the series.

And while it turned out that a bad penalty and giveaway turned the tide for Carolina, the other glaring shortcoming for the Oilers was a continual inability to score on the power play. Once again the Oilers had a five on three gift handed to them and once again they just couldn’t cash in on the opportunity.

The third period carried on with a fast and furious pace, the Oilers buzzing around the Carolina end of the rink, but actually directing few shots in the direction of Cam Ward, the Hurricanes did a marvelous job of giving the Oilers only perimeter shots, many of those that they directed at the net were blocked by anyone in a Hurricane uniform the rest were easily taken care of by Edmontonian Ward picking up his first ever playoff win in his hometown.

The task is now much more daunting than it was less than 48 hours ago, with a win on Monday the Oilers would have been transferring the pressure of the Stanley Cup final on to the shoulders of Carolina. But by giving them a strangle hold on the series with a 3-1 lead, all the pressure now moves towards the Copper and blue.

Game five goes Wednesday night in Raleigh, the Stanley Cup will be in the house as they say, what remains to be seen is whether it’s handed over to the Hurricanes for their first ever Stanley Cup victory.

The engraver is no doubt working on the spelling of the names and unless the Oilers can pull off one more miracle in this amazing run of 2006, those names will be the likes of a Recchi, Brind’Amour, Ward, Stillman and Staal to name but a few.

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