In 2006, for the second time in just four NHL seasons, Raleigh, North Carolina was set to host Stanley Cup Final action as the Edmonton Oilers and Carolina Hurricanes faced off for Lord Stanley’s Cup.
The series opener was in Raleigh and the Western Conference Champion Oilers stormed out to an early lead behind a goal from playoff hero Fernando Pisani.
In the clip above, the Hurricanes win the initial puck battle, but an errant Aaron Ward pass, intended for Andrew Ladd, ends up in perfect one-timing position for future Hurricane Jaroslav Spacek. Cam Ward makes the initial save, but Pisani beats Eric Staal, who has fallen down behind the Carolina net, back to the loose puck and buries the rebound.
In the second period, after Niclas Wallin was whistled by the late Mick McGeough for covering the puck with his hand inside his own crease, Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish made the unusual choice to have a defenseman take the ensuing penalty shot.
Edmonton stalwart, and team point leader, Chris Pronger strolls in and beats Ward blocker side to give the Oilers a two-goal lead.
Ward challenges the shot well, coming well out of his crease, but it is a perfectly placed shot by Pronger, just above Ward’s pad and just below his blocker.
Minutes later, the Oilers would add to their lead after a harmless looking Ethan Moreau shot ricochets off of defenseman Aaron Ward’s hip and past goaltender Cam Ward.
On the ropes late in the second, the Hurricanes are finally able to get on the board when captain Rod Brind’Amour finishes on the rush after a long give-and-go between Justin Williams and Cory Stillman.
After Williams makes the initial pass to Stillman, he charges up ice to join the rush. Stillman plays it perfectly, pausing just enough to drive Spacek back and open the cross-ice lane to to the streaking Williams. As the Oilers rotate out to Williams, Brind’Amour gets lost in his net drive and is left all alone to deposit the puck after it sneaks through goaltender Dwayne Roloson.
Just before the Brind’Amour goal, the Oilers were advancing on an odd man rush, but a sliding Mike Commodore disrupted the high quality Edmonton chance and sparked the Carolina counterattack.
After heading into the locker room with some life after the Brind’Amour goal, the Hurricanes stormed out of the gates to begin the third period.
Ray Whitney would notch the second Carolina tally of the night on a one-timed slap shot after an end to end rush from Doug Weight.
The key is defenseman Glen Wesley recognizing a chance to beat his man up ice and joining the rush. Wesley creates a 3-on-2 for Carolina which forces Oilers defenseman Matt Greene, worried about a pass back across to Wesley, to sag deeper into the zone, and further off of Whitney, than he would normally have liked.
The pump fake by Weight, as subtle as it may look, temporarily freezes Roloson, making him a split second late to get over on his angle. That hair of a difference is all the seeing-eye shot from Whitney needs to find twine on the short side.
Just a few minutes later, Whitney would score again, this time on the power play, to draw Carolina even. A strong Eric Staal net drive opens the lane for Whitney to find Mark Recchi in the slot. Recchi moves to his backhand but is unable to elevate the puck past Roloson who kicks out a rebound right to Whitney. Whitney doesn’t try to corral the puck, instead just shoveling it past the Edmonton netminder.
Just a few minutes after Whitney evened the score, the Oilers would get a power play of their own. Unable to generate anything of substance in the first minute and a half of their man advantage, Edmonton turned the puck over deep in the Carolina zone. Chad LaRose’s clearing effort is initially blocked by Oilers defenseman Steve Staios, but the puck bounces off of Staios’ skate right into open ice for a Justin Williams breakaway.
As LaRose prepared to clear, Staios’ defensive partner, and another future Hurricane, Marc-Andre Bergeron should have retreated slightly into neutral ice in order to safeguard against any funny bounces or give chase to a cleared puck. Instead, Bergeron remains just inside the offensive blue line, giving Williams a clear path to the net once the puck bounces out of the zone.
The Canes had tallied four straight and appeared to have all the momentum, but Edmonton would find themselves on another power play just over three minutes later.
Jarret Stoll enters the zone and as all four Hurricane killers collapse around him in the slot, Stoll dishes a backhand pass to Ales Hemsky along the right wing. Hemsky flies in and makes a sharp cut to his backhand past an outstretched Wesley and Ward for the tying goal.
The clip below shows Hemsky protect the puck outside of his body until Wesley leaves his feet. Then Hemsky ever so slightly lifts his left toe, digging his left heel into the ice and causing the sharp cutback towards the crease. Once he secures the puck past Wesley’s outstretched stick, Hemsky pulls the puck to his backhand to finish in the gaping net.
Wesley’s diving recovery effort may have inadvertently hindered Ward’s ability to stop Hemsky. Once Wesley hits the ice in the clip above, Ward also drops to his knees, perhaps confident that Wesley had sealed off the middle of the ice as an option. Instead, Ward is frozen and has no answer for Hemsky’s cutback.
Less than a minute later, disaster would strike for the Oilers. In what would prove to be the turning point of the game, and quite possibly the series, Andrew Ladd is hit into Roloson by Bergeron.
Ladd initially enters the zone behind the puck carrier, Whitney. Whitney throws on the breaks, freezing strong side defenseman Matt Greene and allowing Ladd to blow by him with speed. With Ladd receiving the puck and charging towards the goal, Bergeron actually recognizes the play well, and nicely recovers from the weak side to deny Ladd, who is fumbling the puck, a high grade chance. But when Bergeron makes a play on the body, he sends an off-balance Ladd straight into Roloson, who is propelled awkwardly into the post.
The collision would leave Roloson with a third-degree MCL sprain and end the goaltender’s playoffs.
The man tasked with replacing Roloson would be 30-year-old backup goaltender Ty Conklin. Conklin was largely untested, only having faced two Carolina shot attempts when the puck was wrapped behind his net with under 40 seconds to play in regulation.
Conklin leaves his net and stops the puck. The goaltender takes a look around and opts to shovel the puck behind him to what he believes to be open space. The only problem is that Oilers captain Jason Smith is right next to Conklin and the puck deflects off of Smith’s stick right to Brind’Amour for the wrap around finish into the empty net.
In the clip below, it is evident Conklin did not like the look he saw up the strong side. Communication between goaltenders and their defensemen is vital and Smith was surely yelling to Conklin to, “Leave it, leave it!” But with less than a minute to play in a raucous building, Conklin may not have been able to hear Smith, and puts too much force on the puck.
Although it is remembered as an easy goal, and it certainly wasn’t the most difficult of Brind’Amour’s career, it had to be relatively precise. Smith gives Brind’Amour two strong whacks across the hands and stick and Chris Pronger covers a healthy portion of the net with his outstretched stick. But Brind’Amour prevails, fighting through the slashes and tightly tucking the puck next to the near-side post.
The Canes’ comeback nature would follow them throughout the remaining contests, as they scored the game’s first goal just twice in the seven game series. Carolina would go on to win twice more at home in the series, including in the decisive Game 7, en route to capturing the Stanley Cup.
If you are thinking of a classic Carolina Hurricanes moment you’d like to see featured in this column, tweet your idea @CanesCountry or email it to Hatchett.Ford@Gmail.com.
In the next Systems Analyst Classics, we’ll take a look at the Canes’ comeback against the Montreal Canadiens in Game 4 of the 2002 Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Molson Miracle.