GAME: Carolina Hurricanes at Edmonton Oilers.
PLAYOFF SERIES: Stanley Cup finals, Hurricanes lead 2-1.
TIME: Monday, 8 p.m. EST.
The Edmonton Oilers desperately needed a strong performance from Jussi Markkanen and got it. The Carolina Hurricanes just keep getting them from Cam Ward.
Ward hopes another impressive effort in net leads to a win in his hometown this time as the Hurricanes try to prevent Markkanen and the Oilers from tying the Stanley Cup finals at two games apiece.
A knee injury that left starting goaltender Dwayne Roloson unlikely to return in this series and a 5-0 loss in Game 2 left Edmonton reeling as it headed home.
Three days after stopping only 21 of the 26 shots he faced, though, Markkanen only let one get past him on Saturday as the Oilers avoided falling into an 0-3 hole.
The Carolina loss was hardly Ward's fault, as Edmonton winger Ryan Smyth scored a disputed goal off a rebound with 2:15 to play to give the Oilers a 2-1 victory.
"We got a few breaks," said Shawn Horcoff, who scored Edmonton's first goal on a deflection. "Hopefully, that's a sign of things to come."
Markkanen certainly hopes so. He made 24 saves to record his first win since Jan. 25. It was just his second game in net for the Oilers since March 1.
When Roloson went down in Game 1, and after Markkanen's poor Game 2 performance, some observers wrote off the Oilers. However, Markkanen refused to get discouraged despite his lack of playing time in recent months.
"I felt fine in Carolina and just tried to carry that feeling to this game," he said. "I felt really good out there and obviously you can see that we came to play right away from the first minutes. It helps a lot for our goaltending, too, when we play good."
Ward, meanwhile, may be the biggest reason Carolina is two wins shy of winning its first Stanley Cup. After becoming the first rookie in 20 years to record a shutout in the finals in Game 2, the suburban Edmonton native made 28 saves in Saturday's defeat.
"You can't blame him," Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette said. "The first goal was a redirect and the second one he wasn't allowed to make the save."
The 22-year-old netminder may continue to face more pressure around the crease, particularly after Edmonton scored Saturday's winning goal when Smyth crashed the net.
Ward has allowed two goals or fewer in 13 of 19 games during the playoffs, including five of his last six.
"You can't say enough about him," Hurricanes captain Rod Brind'Amour said. "He's just been stellar back there."
It may be a tough call between Ward and Brind'Amour for the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP if Carolina does go on to win the series.
Brind'Amour tied Game 3 by scoring with 10:51 left in the third period. It was his NHL-best 12th goal of the playoffs.
Cory Stillman assisted on that goal to extend his point streak to 11 games. Stillman and teammate Eric Staal top all postseason players with 22 points each.
While Brind'Amour, Stillman and Staal have been solid throughout the postseason, Edmonton's top line of Horcoff, Smyth and Ales Hemsky got off to a slow start in this series.
After that trio accounted for only one point through the first two games, Hemsky assisted on both of his linemates' goals in Game 3.
"We had to get better," Smyth said. "Finally, we got some breaks tonight, and hopefully we can get some confidence off that and feed off it."
Special teams have made a huge difference for both teams throughout the postseason, and that hasn't changed in the finals.
In their last three series, the Hurricanes have gone 0-4 when failing to score a power-play goal. They're 10-1 when scoring at least once with the extra attacker.
The Oilers are 7-1 this postseason when they don't allow a power-play goal, 6-6 when they do. They'd also like to see their own power-play unit get going, having gone 1-for-20 in the series. With a win Monday, Carolina can head home for Wednesday's Game 5 with a chance to win the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
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 - Brind'Amour, 11 goals; Staal, 15 assists; Staal and Stillman, 22 points; Justin Williams and Bret Hedican, 30 PIM. Oilers - Fernando Pisani, 10 goals; Chris Pronger, 14 assists and 19 points; Georges Laraque, 44 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Hurricanes - Power play: 24.8 percent (26 for 105). Penalty killing: 85.7 percent (96 for 112). Oilers - Power play: 17.2 percent (20 for 116). Penalty killing: 87.3 percent (117 for 134).
GOALTENDERS: Hurricanes - Ward (13-6, 2 SO, 2.06 GAA); Martin Gerber (1-1, 1, 3.53). Oilers - Markkanen (1-1, 3.00); Ty Conklin (0-1, 10.00).