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Oilers 2, Hurricanes 1 @NHLdotcom

EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) - The Edmonton Oilers found out there's more than one way to beat Cam Ward.

A deflected shot works. Or simply fling yourself toward the net - and hope.

Ryan Smyth scored a disputed goal off a rebound with 2:15 left in the third period and the Oilers won a game they had to have, beating the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 Saturday night to ensure these teams will be returning to Tobacco Road.

Carolina's lead in the best-of-seven series is now 2-1, with Game 4 in Edmonton on Monday night and at least one more game in Raleigh.

The Hurricanes were livid about Smyth's goal, believing he interfered with Ward in the goal crease. But the officials looked at the replay and allowed it to stand.

Smyth wouldn't mind taking a look, too - he's not all that sure what happened, though he felt as though he was pushed into the crease by a Carolina player.

"The puck went off Cam Ward and I guess it hit my shaft," Smyth said. "I don't really remember. I remember it hitting my chest and crossing the line. It was a gritty goal, but we'll count it."

Jussi Markkanen, filling in again for injured Oilers goalie Dwayne Roloson, stopped 24 shots and had the crowd roaring his name with several big saves - a striking contrast to the regular season, when he was booed relentlessly as the Oilers struggled to find a reliable stopper in the nets.

The Oilers scored 2 1/2 minutes into the game on a deflection and zealously guarded the lead until Rod Brind'Amour tied it up with 10:51 remaining in the third.

It was left to Smyth to prevent Edmonton from falling into a virtually insurmountable hole in the series. The team's leading goal scorer during the regular season, he was held without a point in the first two games in Carolina.

That's over now. Ward blocked a shot by Ales Hemsky but couldn't control the rebound. Smyth powered his way toward the crease, got some part of his stick or body on the puck and managed to barely shove it across the line.

The 22-year-old goalie took a whack at Smyth's legs as the Edmonton player stood over him in triumph. The Oilers had to temper their celebration while officials looked at the replay, but the goal stood, a deafening horn went off and silver streamers dropped from the rafters.

"There's not a prettier goal in our view," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said.

The Hurricanes felt differently.

"There was a man in the crease, there was interference on the goaltender and the puck went into the net," Carolina coach Peter Laviolette insisted.

Cheered on by a raucous crowd that waited 16 years for the Stanley Cup finals to return to northern Alberta, the Oilers came out aggressively and got just what they needed - the first goal.

Jaroslav Spacek unleashed a slap shot from just inside the blue line and Shawn Horcoff, slipping free of Carolina defenseman Bret Hedican in the slot, managed to get his stick on the puck and deflect it past Ward.

The Oilers thought they had a short-handed goal late in the second period. Ethan Moreau stole the puck from Doug Weight behind the Carolina goal, came right out front and took several whacks at it with Ward sprawled on the ice.

An overhead replay showed the puck between Ward's legs, clearly uncovered. But referee Mick McGeough lost sight of it and blew his whistle just before Moreau tugged the puck free and flipped it over the goalie.

The Oilers protected their 1-0 lead until Brind'Amour broke through. Cory Stillman cut off the puck behind the net and whipped a pass to his teammate in front of the net. The first shot caught Edmonton defenseman Jason Smith in the chest, the puck going right back to Brind'Amour, who fired another quick shot over Markkanen's right shoulder to silence the fans.

Otherwise, the replacement goalie stopped everything that came his way.

"I saw the puck well," Markkanen said. "A lot of credit goes to the forwards coming back to help."

Ward, the first rookie in 20 years to record a shutout in the finals, returned to his hometown hoping to give the Hurricanes a 3-0 lead. Cheered on by his parents from their regular seats in section 102, he showed no signs of nervousness while making 28 saves,

"You can't blame him," Laviolette said. "The first goal was a redirect and the second one he wasn't allowed to make the save."

The Oilers played a much tighter game in front of Markkanen, giving themselves hope for another playoff surprise. They upset three higher-ranked teams to become the first No. 8 seed to reach the finals under the current playoff format.

Carolina got off to a strong start in Raleigh. The Hurricanes rallied from a three-goal deficit to win the opener 5-4 - matching the biggest comeback in finals history. The loss was even more devastating to the Oilers when Roloson, their playoff star, sustained a knee injury that is expected to keep him out for the series.

With Markkanen taking over in goal - his first appearance in more than two months - the Hurricanes romped to a 5-0 victory in Game 2. Ward became the first rookie since Montreal's Patrick Roy in 1986 to post a shutout in the finals.

Five minutes into this one, Markkanen showed he was over Wednesday night's debacle. Stillman flipped a short pass that gave Justin Williams a breakaway. He went high on Markkanen, who appeared to get just enough of his arm on the puck to send it over the goal.

"Jussi! Jussi! Jussi!" the fans screamed.

The Oilers won despite another miserable night on the power play. They went 0-for-7 with the man advantage, even failing to covert a two-man edge for nearly 1 1/2 minutes in the first period. Edmonton dropped to 1-for-20 in the series.

Notes: The Oilers tried to rekindle memories of their dynasty days by bringing back former stars Mark Messier and Bill Ranford. ... The Oilers improved their home record 14-4 in Stanley Cup finals. ... Stillman extended his scoring streak to 11 straight games with the assist on Brind'Amour's goal. ... After losing twice in Raleigh, the Oilers made only one lineup change. D Marc-Andre Bergeron was scratched and D Dick Tarnstrom moved into the lineup.

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