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EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) - Only the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs dug out of the hole the Edmonton Oilers have fallen into.

Teams leading 3-1 in the Stanley Cup finals are 26-1, and the Carolina Hurricanes - who grabbed that advantage Monday night - can skate off the trophy as soon as Wednesday in Raleigh.

"This is going to be the toughest game we face now going home," said Cory Stillman, riding a 12-game point streak and on the verge of his second straight championship. "We need to come out, we need to be better."

The Maple Leafs trailed Detroit 3-0 in the 1942 finals before rallying to win. The 2002 Hurricanes were the last team to trail 3-1 in the championship round that adopted a best-of-seven format in 1939.

Stillman scored the first goal in Carolina's 2-1 victory in Game 4 and helped set up Mark Recchi's winner in the second period. He is tied with teammate Eric Staal with an NHL-high 24 postseason points.

He was a member of the 2004 champion Tampa Bay Lightning before signing a free-agent contract with the Hurricanes. Now he has the former Hartford Whalers one win away from their first NHL title

"Every time you take a step closer to winning, especially four games, it's important," he said. "Game 5 is going to be the biggest game we have ever played."


STREAK BUSTER: Sergei Samsonov's first-period goal Monday night gave the Edmonton Oilers a 1-0 lead and snapped the left winger's 10-game goal-less streak that lasted a month.

Samsonov, who had 23 goals in 74 games with Boston and Edmonton in the regular season, hadn't scored since May 12 - a 6-3 victory in Game 4 over San Jose in the second round of the playoffs. Samsonov has four goals and 11 assists in 21 postseason contests this year.


SKATES OR PADS: If Georges Laraque's youth football coach had his way, the Oilers' enforcer might be playing in Edmonton for the CFL's Eskimos instead of the beloved NHL team.

Back when he was a teenager, Laraque was coached by Danny Maciocia - now the man in charge of the Eskimos - on the midget St. Leonard Cougars.

Even though Laraque at 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, had talent as a running back, he wanted to pursue a hockey career. That's what guys from Montreal played, even though as a black man he was in the minority on the ice.

When the time came to choose, Laraque picked hockey despite Maciocia's guarantees that he would turn him into a special player.

"I was a running back and I was pretty good," the 29-year-old forward said Monday. "I had to make the choice between that and hockey. He said there's no brothers in hockey and you're not going to make it in the NHL.

"He said, 'Stay with football.' I told him no, and he was so disappointed."

Laraque saw more potential in hockey off the ice, too.

"My entire life, it was a challenge for me to make it into hockey," he said. "When I played football I was only one between many others. In hockey, I wanted to become a role model."

Laraque had 12 points and 73 penalty minutes in 72 regular-season games. He doesn't have any regrets about his decision even though his talents would probably came through better on the gridiron.

"In football I was a running back. In hockey, I'm a fighter," he said with a smile, "so it's pretty much different."


COLE WAITS: Erik Cole keeps skating and hoping he'll be back on the ice before the end of the Stanley Cup finals.

Just before Cole took his latest spin, Carolina Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette didn't sound optimistic that the star center - who is sidelined by a broken neck - would return anytime soon.

"Erik Cole is not playing," Laviolette said Monday before Game 4 against the Edmonton Oilers. "Erik Cole is not healthy based on the report from the doctor three weeks ago. We got a report from the doctors that we were very upfront with the day we got it. Erik Cole's season was over."

Cole, a U.S. Olympian this year, has been out since sustaining a compression fracture in a vertebra when he was driven headfirst into the boards by Pittsburgh's Brooks Orpik on March 4.

The original target date for Cole was Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals, but late last month a CT scan showed that the injury hadn't healed enough to allow him to play again this season.

So instead of wearing the white sweater with the Stanley Cup finals logo stitched on, Cole is forced to wear the blue one that signifies no contact.

"I feel good on the ice," he said as he skated off, long after the rest of his active teammates. "I don't feel like I'm lagging behind out there. I feel strong and I feel good during practices, but I felt this way before we had the last CT scan.

"So it doesn't mean that anything's healed up back there or that I'll be cleared."


PAY UP: Oilers forward Radek Dvorak bounded out of the players lounge Monday morning to tell teammate Jaroslav Spacek the good news.

After only five minutes, the Czech Republic had a 1-0 lead over the United States in the World Cup soccer match. Dvorak spoke quickly to Spacek in their native tongue. Spacek happily translated to the North Americans camped by his stall.

Once the Czechs wrapped up a 3-0 victory, Spacek was set to collect on bets he made with his U.S. teammates.

"I tried to have all the Americans," before the game went final. "I hope I don't have to hit the cash machine today."


LINEUP SWITCH: Josef Vasicek, who played in only five playoff games before the finals, was back in the Carolina lineup Monday night for Game 4 against the Edmonton Oilers.

The center hadn't seen any action in 12 games before taking the place of right wing Chad LaRose, who had played in 20 of the Hurricanes' 21 postseason contests. The only one he missed was Game 2 of the finals.

"I feel good," Vasicek said. "It's the Stanley Cup finals, so I feel really great about it. I'm trying to do the things I do every day and prepare myself for whatever is needed."

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