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In Their Words: 2006 Stanley Cup Final, Game 4

Aaron Ward: 'It was one of the toughest, hard-fought games I played in over the course of my career'

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes /

FOX Sports Carolinas is airing a series of Canes Classics, a collection of some of the most memorable postseason triumphs in Hurricanes history, beginning with the team's four wins against the Edmonton Oilers in the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.

Game 4 airs on Wednesday, April 22 at 7 p.m. ET on FOX Sports Carolinas and is also available to stream on the FOX Sports GO app. Cam Ward will live tweet from @Canes during the broadcast.

The Carolina Hurricanes were in the driver's seat as the 2006 Stanley Cup Final shifted to Edmonton for Games 3 and 4.

The Oilers, trailing 2-0 in the best-of-seven series and needing a victory to mentally remain alive, grinded out a 2-1 win in Game 3, with Ryan Smyth batting in the deciding goal with just 2:15 left in regulation.

Edmonton was back in the series heading into a pivotal Game 4 at Rexall Place: A win for the Oilers would even the series, while a win for the Canes would move them within a victory of capturing the Stanley Cup and a chance to do so back in Raleigh.

Aaron Ward: "They had the win. We knew we couldn't let them draw it even."

Rod Brind'Amour: "We knew we wanted to win, and we had to win four. It didn't matter how we got it done."

Like Game 3, Game 4 was a low-scoring, tightly contested affair.

Sergei Samsonov finished a give-and-go to open the scoring 8:40 into the game, but it took just 29 seconds for the Canes to answer back on their potent power play, their first of the game. Frantisek Kaberle drew two defenders to him before threading the needle across the offensive zone to Cory Stillman, who beat Jussi Markkanen with a blistering one-timer from the right circle.

With the game tied at one, the Canes then got in some penalty trouble in the latter half of the first period. They were whistled for four consecutive minors and were tasked with killing off 72 seconds of a 5-on-3 advantage for the Oilers in the last five minutes of the frame.

The Canes killed 85.4 percent of penalties faced that postseason and were a perfect 5-for-5 in Game 4.

Ward: "You had a team that was a sum-of-the-parts team. That's what I would best describe us as. Everybody looked at us a motley crew of guys, and we were all able to carve out an identity on this team. Part of that identity was when you were given a role on this team, you took it seriously. So, if you're killing a penalty, you generally knew you were out there with Rod Brind'Amour for the first part of that penalty kill. He put the onus on you to sell out in every capacity because he was doing the same. The penalty kill took on an identity of its own. We wanted to ruin games for other teams. It became a badge of honor. I remember that year as a penalty killer in practice, we used to try to piss off our power play all the time on purpose. When they were getting out there - and Roddy was on the power play, too, so I paid special attention to try to piss off Roddy and J-Will because I wanted to beat them in practice. Good practice habits played themselves into game situations."

With a little more than four minutes left in the second period, the Canes' aggressive forecheck forced a turnover. Eric Staal leapt up to glove down a puck that had bounced off the defending stick of Stillman. Staal then backhanded a pass over to Mark Recchi, who opened himself up to receive the puck and roofed a shot over a sprawled-out Markkanen.

Cam Ward held the fort the rest of the way, finishing the night with 20 saves on 21 shots in his 14th win of the playoffs.

Justin Williams: "The whole playoffs was a coming out party for him, and [the Final] was actually a homecoming. Hometown guy, just really showing the world who he is. That was a statement for him, as well."

With four seconds left in regulation, Williams put his stick in a passing lane, deflecting the puck over to Brind'Amour in the neutral zone. He had the empty net in front of him but had to get the puck off his stick quickly.

Brind'Amour: "I remember getting cheap-shotted by Peca at the end of the game. He tried to knee me. I remember that. I got out of the way, thankfully, but I remember thinking, 'Man, if he would have caught me, I might have missed the rest of this.' I was real thankful I got out of the way of that."

Empty-net goal or not, the Canes were able to grind out a win of their own.

Ward: "Game 4, for me, was probably the toughest game of the entire series. There was not a single shift in that entire game where I thought anybody took a second off for either team. It was one of the toughest, hard-fought games I played in over the course of my career."

The Canes were leaving Edmonton with their third win of the series and a chance to capture the ultimate prize on home ice in Game 5.

Brind'Amour: "I don't ever look at it like you're stealing a game. Whether you play at home or on the road, it's just another game, and you've got to win it. It was nice that we were in the driver's seat being up 3-1, I can tell you that."

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