GAME: Edmonton Oilers at Carolina Hurricanes.
PLAYOFF SERIES: Stanley Cup finals, Hurricanes lead 1-0.
TIME: Wednesday, 8 p.m. EST.
Everything was going the Edmonton Oilers' way midway through Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals. One blown lead and one agonizing giveaway turned the momentum of the series, and one injured goalie changed the shape of it.
Knowing Dwayne Roloson isn't coming back, the Oilers must turn to an unheralded goaltender - either the one whose gaffe cost the team Game 1 or the one who hasn't played in three months - as they try to prevent the Carolina Hurricanes from leaving home with a 2-0 series lead.
Edmonton will have Ty Conklin or Jussi Markkanen in net for the rest of this series because Roloson is out with a knee injury, suffered with 5:54 to play in Carolina's 5-4 victory in Game 1 on Monday.
"We've got two guys that we've got a lot of confidence in Jussi and Conks," said Oilers defenseman Chris Pronger, who scored the first penalty shot goal in finals history. "They haven't played that much in the last two or three months, but at the same time, I've seen them at practices and they've been working hard and trying to stay sharp. They'll do a good job."
Acquired in March because Conklin, Markkanen and Michael Morrison weren't getting the job done, Roloson helped the Oilers claim the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoffs before leading the team to its first Stanley Cup finals appearance since 1990. The 36-year-old journeyman has gone 12-5 with a 2.33 goals-against average in this postseason.
"He's been our backbone for the whole playoff," Oilers defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron said. "Obviously, it's not something that you really want to have happen, but we're going to deal with it."
Roloson, though, blew a 3-0 lead in the series opener and the game was tied at 4 when a big hit from Bergeron drove Carolina's Andrew Ladd into the netminder's knee. Down on the ice for several minutes before being helped to the locker room, Roloson was replaced by the little-used Conklin, whose mistake cost Edmonton the game.
Taking a bit too long to play the puck behind his net, Conklin crossed up teammate Jason Smith with a backhanded pass and the puck deflected off the defenseman's stick before sliding in front of an open net. Rod Brind'Amour was there to make Edmonton pay, tapping in one of the easiest - and one of the biggest - goals of his career with 31.1 seconds left to put Carolina ahead 5-4.
"I think all year, our team has been exciting because we do seem to, for whatever reason, get behind and find ways to scratch and claw," said Brind'Amour, who scored twice Monday and is the postseason leader with 11 goals.
"We're fun to watch, but not the way you want to do it."
With Roloson having played every minute of the playoffs for Edmonton, Monday marked Conklin's first appearance since April 17 in the regular-season finale. It's been even longer since Markkanen played in an NHL game, going back to a March 1 contest against St. Louis.
Markkanen had a team-high 15 wins during the regular season, but also had a club-worst 3.13 GAA and appeared in only one game following the Olympic break. Conklin went 8-5-1 with a 2.80 GAA this season.
"I think Jussi and I both tried to prepare ourselves for that," Conklin said of being the potential starter. "You know, this isn't a situation we wanted obviously but it's an opportunity for one of us, for both of us."
Rookie Cam Ward has taken advantage of his opportunity in this postseason after taking over for veteran Martin Gerber, and showed in Game 1 he is capable of leading the Hurricanes to a championship. His brilliant glove save of Shawn Horcoff's shot at the side of the net with 3.8 seconds left capped an impressive 34-save night for the suburban Edmonton native.
"He definitely played outstanding hockey," Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said. "There's a couple goals he had no chance on just based on redirects. There was some that should have been in the net and weren't because of his play.
"He's just a real levelheaded kid. I don't think a situation like this, being in the Stanley Cup finals, fazes him. He's a competitor."
Ward's performance allowed Carolina to match the biggest comeback in finals history. Brind'Amour's goal late in the second period put the Hurricanes on the board, Ray Whitney scored twice early in the third period to tie the game and Justin Williams' short-handed goal gave Carolina a 4-3 lead with 9:58 to play.
Edmonton, though, showed enough resiliency to tie the game on Ales Hemsky's power-play goal with 6:29 remaining, setting up the dramatic finish.
"It's a tough loss but at the same time it's one game. We certainly cannot dwell on it too much," Pronger said. "We got into a situation where, you know, you're coming into the third period with a 3-1 lead, we've got to close that out and finish them off and not give them some opportunities."
The series heads to Edmonton for Game 3 on Saturday.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: 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. 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.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Oilers - Fernando Pisani, 10 goals; Pronger, 14 assists and 19 points; Georges Laraque, 27 PIM. Hurricanes - Brind'Amour, 11 goals; Eric Staal, 14 assists and 21 points; Williams, 30 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Oilers - Power play: 19.4 percent (20 for 103). Penalty killing: 88.2 percent (105 for 119). Hurricanes - Power play: 25.6 percent (23 for 90). Penalty killing: 83.8 percent (83 for 99).
GOALTENDERS: Oilers - Conklin (0-1-0, 10.00 GAA); Markkanen (no appearances). Hurricanes - Ward (12-5, 1 SO, 2.19); Gerber (1-1, 1, 3.53).
Other games on June 7, 2006