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Oilers one win away from tying the series

by Staff Writer / Edmonton Oilers
"I felt fine in Carolina and just tried to carry on that feeling to this game," said Oilers goaltender Jussi Markkanen, who was named the game's first star and turned aside 24 of 25 shots. "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."

Smyth's game winner came with just over two minutes to play in the third. His goal came about eight minutes after Brind'Amour had tied the game midway through the period.

"We have been pretty solid in Game 3 and we want to feed off of the fans and get some energy here," said Smyth. "I thought tonight they were a huge attack for us and Jussi holding the fort back there for us was great."

Aided by a boisterous crowd, the Edmonton Oilers got off to a great start, pinning the play in Carolina's zone. Their hard work paid off early as Shawn Horcoff tipped in a Jaroslav Spacek point shot to make it a 1-0 game.

"It was big to get that goal in the first two-and-a-half minutes of the game, and couldn't have come from a better source," remarked Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish.

Six minutes into the period, Justin Williams broke in alone on Markkanen and tried to shoot top corner but was denied by the Oilers netminder. Chants of "Jussi Jussi" rained down from the Rexall Place faithful after the save.

Markkanen's play was the real story of the night. He showed that despite not having played in three months there's no rust and the Oilers are in a great position to even up the series Monday.

"Let's be honest, I think it's really impressive," stated Horcoff after the game on Markkanen's performance. "To come in and obviously not have a start in a long time and over a couple of months and to come in and expect to just all of a sudden get right back to top form in the Stanley Cup Finals is obviously a difficult situation, but I think it's a test to how hard Jussi's worked here for a good three, four months.

"I think, like I said before, we weren't kidding when we said we have confidence in him. We see this guy, we know he's a quality goaltender. He's played quality games for us during the year. We had confidence in him that he was going to get it done. As long as we can play better in front of him, like we did tonight, we're going to make his job easier."

Carolina came close to scoring on their first power play of the game but Markkanen plus several fortunate bounces were able to keep the puck out and keep the 'Canes guessing.

After that kill, infractions by Craig Adams and Kevyn Adams 33 seconds apart put Edmonton on a two-man advantage for 1:27 but the Hurricanes were able to kill of those penalties as well.

After one period, the Oilers were outshooting Carolina 9-6.

Radek Dvorak came close to doubling the Oilers' lead early in the second by driving to the net before attempting a backhand on Ward.

With both teams playing four-on-four seven minutes in, Samsonov found Peca behind the Hurricanes defence but Peca could not get the puck through Ward.

Edmonton carried the play for the first half of the second period but Ward was outstanding in turning away chance after chance.

Later in the middle frame, it was Jussi Markkanen stealing the show. On several occasions, he stoned Eric Staal and then managed to keep the puck out during a scramble in front with Ray Whitney jamming away at it.

It looked as if Ethan Moreau had scored a shorthanded goal with two minutes left in the second but referee Mick McGeough ruled that the whistle had gone.

"Mick was behind the net, and Cam had it right between his legs. And Mick lost site of it obviously," said MacTavish. "I wasn't upset with the interpretation there by Mick. I could understand where he was coming from."

Shots after two periods of play were 20-14 for Edmonton.

Markkanen made a huge stop 1:10 into the third. Despite a bad bounce in front, the Oilers netminder was able to corral the puck at the top of his crease before Matt Cullen could put it in.

Edmonton had a number of chances early in the third to double their lead. Ethan Moreau, Raffi Torres and Radek Dvorak were all buzzing around the Carolina end. Dvorak had the best chance with a wrister from the slot that Ward had to be sharp in turning away.

Carolina finally tied the game 9:09 into the third. Brind'Amour's initial shot struck Jason Smith in the chest and the rebound came back out to Brind'Amour. The 'Canes captain made no mistake this time, wiring the puck high blocker side.

With 2:15 to play in the third, Ales Hemsky fired a wrister from the right circle that Ryan Smyth tipped in front to beat a screened Cam Ward and give the Oilers a 2-1 lead. The play was reviewed but after several minutes it was ruled a goal.

NOTES: The only lineup change for Edmonton was Dick Tarnstrom coming in to replace Marc-Andre Bergeron on defence... Carolina dressed forward Chad LaRose instead of defenceman Oleg Tverdosky... Horcoff's goal was his first in eight games... Markkanen's win was his first career playoff victory... Cory Stillman increased his point-scoring streak to 11 games... Carolina's penalty kill is now 19-for-20 in this round (95%)... Ryan Smyth's goal was his third career postseason game winner and first since 1997.
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