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Hurricanes 5, Oilers 4 @NHLdotcom

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Losing the first game of the Stanley Cup finals was bad enough.

Then the Edmonton Oilers found out they lost their goalie, too.

On a night that started so well for the upstart Oilers, Rod Brind'Amour scored the winning goal for Carolina in the final minute after a monumental gaffe by Edmonton's backup goalie, who had to take over when playoff star Dwayne Roloson went down with a series-ending knee injury.

The Hurricanes grabbed the upper hand with an improbable 5-4 win Monday night, while the Oilers tried to pull themselves up after a devastating one-two punch.

They became only the sixth team to lose a finals game by blowing a three-goal lead. And they'll have to go the rest of the way without the goalie who sparked an improbable playoff run by the eighth-seeded Oilers.

Roloson had played every minute of the playoffs for Edmonton. He will play no more.

"He's been our backbone for the whole playoff," said Oilers defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron, who was involved in the play that left Roloson sprawled on the ice. "Obviously, it's not something that you really want to have happen, but we're going to deal with it."

With the score tied at 4 and about six minutes remaining, Carolina's Andrew Ladd carried the puck into the Edmonton zone, cut across in the front of the net and was met there by Bergeron, who unloaded a big hit from behind that drove Ladd into Roloson and knocked the net off its moorings.

The goalie remained on the ice for several minutes, then skated slowly to the locker room with an injured right knee.

Ty Conklin, who played only 18 games during the regular season, took over for Roloson and made the game-deciding blunder with less than a minute to go.

Overtime was looming when Conklin went behind the net to control the puck on a seemingly routine play. But he held it a little too long, then crossed up teammate Jason Smith with a backhanded pass, the puck deflecting off Smith's stick and sliding in front of an open net.

"I didn't make the play quickly, you know?" Conklin said. "It's not a mistake I think I would normally make."

Brind'Amour scored his second goal of the night - and he'll never get an easier one. He stuffed it into an open net while Smith dove in a futile attempt to knock the puck away and Conklin was still caught out of position.

"It wasn't much that I did," Brind'Amour said. "I think there was a little mix-up about who was going to get it and obviously the goalie is behind the net. It was just a matter of flipping it into the net. You don't get too many of those, but I'll definitely take them."

Game 2 in the series is Wednesday night in Raleigh. The Oilers will have to go with either Conklin or Jussi Markkanen, both of whom struggled during the regular season, forcing Edmonton to deal for Roloson at the trade deadline.

"We've got two guys that we've got a lot of confidence in Jussi and Conks," Oilers defenseman Chris Pronger said. "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."

Carolina feels much better about its goaltending situation.

Rookie Cam Ward had another brilliant playoff performance after backing up Martin Gerber through most of the regular season. His 34 saves included two remarkable stops on Shawn Horcoff, the second at the side of the net with 3.8 seconds left to preserve the win.

"It is pure reaction," Ward said. "I dropped and just out of pure desperation, put my glove out there and I was very fortunate to make the save."

With two small-market finalists and an obscure cable network televising the first two games, the Edmonton-Carolina matchup was expected to draw minuscule television ratings. Maybe a few more people will switch channels after a thrilling opener with all sorts of twists and turns.

Carolina matched the biggest comeback in finals history, equaling five other teams that came from three goals down to win. Pronger scored the first penalty shot goal in finals history. The Hurricanes surged ahead with three goals in the third, grabbing their first lead on a shorthanded breakaway by Justin Williams. The Oilers tied it back up on a power-play goal by Ales Hemsky.

The Oilers are in the finals for the first time since 1990, when they finished off a run of five Stanley Cup titles in seven years with the vestiges of the Gretzky-Messier-Coffey-Fuhr dynasty.

After that 16-year absence, Edmonton had to sit around for eight more days before starting the finals. The Oilers got plenty of rest after needing only five games to beat Anaheim in the Western Conference finals.

Carolina had a much tougher time on the Eastern side, rallying in the third period of Game 7 to beat the Buffalo Sabres and advance to its second Stanley Cup final in four years.

The Oilers sure looked fresher at the start. Edmonton native Fernando Pisani knocked in his team-leading 10th goal of the playoffs off a rebound in the first. Pronger made it 2-0 on the penalty shot, which was called after Hurricanes defenseman Niclas Wallin touched the puck in the crease with his glove. Ethan Moreau scored off a deflection.

Brind'Amour sparked the comeback with his first goal late in the second period. Ray Whitney scored back-to-back goals early in the third to tie it up.

Notes: Pronger's penalty shot was the ninth in finals history, the most recent coming in 1994. ... This is the first time two former WHA teams are meeting for the Stanley Cup. ... The last team to overcome a three-goal deficit in the Stanley Cup finals: Pittsburgh in 1992 for a 5-4 victory over Chicago.

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