PLAYOFF SERIES: Stanley Cup finals, Hurricanes lead 3-2.
TIME: Saturday, 8 p.m. EST.
The Carolina Hurricanes were one goal away from bringing the Stanley Cup finals to a quick end. Now they're one loss away from being pushed to the limit.
Forced to make a long trip they hoped not to take, the Hurricanes must play in front of another frenzied Edmonton Oilers crowd knowing they will leave Rexall Place as champions or be headed home for a winner-take-all Game 7.
A turnover by Carolina's Cory Stillman led to Fernando Pisani scoring the first short-handed overtime goal in finals history and gave Edmonton a 4-3 victory in Game 5 on Wednesday. That cut the Oilers' deficit in this series to 3-2, causing the Hurricanes to make the five-hour trek back to Edmonton for what will be the final game of the season in one of the league's most hockey-crazed cities.
"All year long our team has been able to shrug off whatever kind of loss it is, whether it's an unfortunate one or ugly one," Carolina forward Ray Whitney said. "We're pretty good at rubbing it off and moving on as we are when we win the game. It will be no different on Saturday."
Since losing to Montreal in their first two games of the playoffs, the Hurricanes are 6-0 following defeats. That record includes a 2-1 win at Edmonton in Game 4 that put Carolina up 3-1 in this series, leaving Edmonton trying to join the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs as the only teams to come back from that deficit in the Stanley Cup finals.
"We were in a do-or-die situation last game and thought we played a solid 60-minute game which we haven't done throughout this whole series," Pisani said. "It was great to see, when we needed a game, we got one."
If the Oilers get one more Saturday, Game 7 will be in Raleigh on Monday.
Besides having the momentum going into Game 6, Edmonton is the healthier team. Carolina lost center Doug Weight and defenseman Aaron Ward to injuries in the third period of Game 5, and Weight will not play Saturday.
"Obviously, it's a tough loss for us," Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette said. "Doug is a part of the reason we have gotten this far."
Weight, who spent nine seasons with the Oilers, has two goals and three assists in this series.
"Weight is a great player and we're going to miss him tremendously," said center Eric Staal, the team's top scorer during the regular season and in the playoffs. "But we've had other guys go down and other guys step up."
Ward, meanwhile, practiced Friday and plans to be in the lineup for Game 6.
"I'm all in one piece," Ward insisted. "Everything works as it's supposed to. Everything's fine."
Staal has been Carolina's best center, though he had failed to score in this series before netting two power-play goals in Wednesday's loss. He also assisted on Whitney's man-advantage goal as the Hurricanes went 3-for-7 on the power play.
Edmonton's penalty-killing unit, however, came through when it mattered most thanks to Pisani's goal, his second of the game, at 3:03 of overtime. The Oilers also scored on the power play in the first period after going 1-for-25 through the first four games of the series.
"It's a little bit of justice for us," forward Michael Peca said of the short-handed goal. "We weren't happy, obviously, with our penalty kill. We kind of flip-flopped from not being happy with our power play.
"Five-on-five, that's our game. We dominated play, we were wearing them down. That's the way the rest of the series is going to be."
Edmonton knows it must limit its penalties, considering half of the Hurricanes' 16 goals in this series have come on the power play.
Keeping Carolina without a man advantage can only help Jussi Markkanen, who has overcome a 5-0 loss in Game 2 - his first contest of this postseason - to stop 63 of 69 shots over the last three games for a .913 save percentage. That mark was .880 during the regular season.
Though Markkanen's counterpart, Cam Ward, may not have wanted to play a Game 6, now he gets a chance to win the Stanley Cup - and maybe the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP - in front of family and friends. The suburban Edmonton native overcame a tough opening period in Game 5 by stopping all 18 shots he faced before Pisani's overtime goal on a breakaway.
Carolina was outshot 7-0 in overtime.
While maybe no player has had more to do with Carolina's success in the playoffs than the 22-year-old Ward, the same can be said for Edmonton's Chris Pronger.
The 6-foot-6 defenseman, seeking his first Stanley Cup title, logged 33 minutes, 46 seconds in Game 5 while no one else on either team played more than 25:36. Pronger, who has played at least 28 minutes in every game of this series, had two assists on Wednesday and was in on the hit that knocked Weight out of the game.
"Chris has made a big impact in the series," Carolina right winger Mark Recchi said. "He's got to be tested. We've got to make him skate more. The more he plays, the more we can play a part in wearing the guy down. That's what we've got to try to do."
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Hurricanes - 112 points, 2nd seed; beat Montreal Canadiens 4-2, Eastern Conference quarterfinals; beat New Jersey Devils 4-1, semifinals; beat Buffalo Sabres 4-3, finals. Oilers - 95 points, 8th seed; beat Detroit Red Wings 4-2, Western Conference quarterfinals; beat San Jose Sharks 4-2, semifinals; beat Anaheim Mighty Ducks 4-1, finals.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Hurricanes - Rod Brind'Amour, 12 goals; Staal, 18 assists and 27 points; Bret Hedican, 34 PIM. Oilers - Pisani, 12 goals; Pronger, 16 assists and 21 points; Georges Laraque, 44 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Hurricanes - Power play: 25.4 percent (30 for 118). Penalty killing: 86.3 percent (107 for 124). Oilers - Power play: 16.4 percent (21 for 128). Penalty killing: 85.7 percent (126 for 147).
GOALTENDERS: Hurricanes - Ward (14-7, 2 SO, 2.10 GAA); Martin Gerber (1-1, 1, 3.53). Oilers - Markkanen (2-2, 2.73); Ty Conklin (0-1, 10.00).