Of course I tempted fate by calling Mick McGeough a "good official" and predicting that Paul Devorski would make some questionable calls. You'll have to forgive me. Being an Eastern Conference fan, I have only seen McGeough about four times in my life. I had forgotten that he has more in common with Kerry Fraser than being lidless. They both enjoy taking the spotlight away from the players with overdramatic gesturing and showboating. They both make some lousy calls at critical moments. Today was no different.
Early in the game, it looked like Edmonton was going to dominate the game and run away with it.
While they were controlling the pace of the game and drawing penalties against the Canes, the Oilers scored first at 8:18 of the first. Fernando Pisani scored his 10th goal of the post-season. He picked up a loose puck out front and slammed it past Ward right after two Edmonton skaters cancelled Eric Staal behind the Carolina net. Raffi Torres and Jaro Spacek got the helpers.
I was surprised to see that at the end of the first, the shots were even at 8 apiece. It seemed like the Oil were totally dominating. Perhaps, though, that was because the Oil enjoyed a full two minutes of five-on-three. That segment was bookended by other power play time, so it seemed like an eternity with a man advantage. Fortunately, the Canes did a superb job of killing it all off.
The big controversy came midway through the second period. While there was a mad rush in front of the Canes net (south end of the arena during the second), the Canes Nic Wallin was penalized for smothering the puck in the crease. From behind the north goal, some 240 feet away, it looked like the puck had vanished from sight and play should have been whistled dead about three seconds prior to the penalty. However, some friends on the south end said they could see the puck the whole time. They still questioned the call, but were sure that the official never lost sight of it. Clearly, if the ref never lost sight of it, AND the Canes player covered the puck inside the crease, then the right call was made. Penalty shot. Because MacT had his fourth line out there, he thought that Chris ("former Whaler") Pronger would be his best bet for the PS. It turned out to be the right call, because Prongs abused Wardo on the shot. It was apparently the first successfully converted penalty shot in the history of the Stanley Cup Finals. The last time a PS was awarded was June 7, 1994 when Pavel Bure (then with the Nucks) came up empty against Mark Richter of the Rangers in game 4.
At 16:23, the Oil got what seemed at the time like a coffin nail. Ethan Moreau beat Ward on a long bomb shot from the right circle. The shot went through an Aaron Ward screen and glanced off Cam Ward's equipment before finding the back of the net. Defenseman Matt Green got the only assist.
Only 54 seconds later, the Canes got on the board with a very numerically appropriate goal. If you're into all that numerology crap, by the way, today's date is 06.06.06. Anyway, the goal came from Rod Brind'Amour (#17), and the time of the goal was 17:17 of the second. As the Canes came in on a semi-break, Cory Stillman beautifully set up Viva with a pass from the right circle to the left. Viva's shot was turned away, but Roli gave up a big rebound to his left. Brindy jumped on the loose puck and shoved it in from there. Although the Canes were still down 3-1, and had been outworked and outshot in that period, something about that goal screamed "momentum shift". Although it never factored into a scoring play, the period ended with an Oiler in the box, which made things seem much better than they really were.
Just 1:40 into the third frame, Ray Whitney one-timed one from the left circle past Roli to trim the lead to 3-2. Dougie Weight and Andrew Ladd got the helpers.
Indeed, the momentum had shifted. The Hurricanes got an equalizing goal on the power play at the 5:09 mark. Again it was Ray Whitney. He attempted a snap shot from the top of the right circle, which was stopped. Mark Recchi took a stab at it, but Roli made another stop. Whitters crept in on the front doorstep and beat Roli high over the left shoulder. The arena nearly erupted. Recchi had the first assist and Eric Staal, who had been held pointless two games in a row, got the secondary.
However, that was nothing compared to the euphoria of the next goal. The Oil were on a power play, and the Canes attempted a clear that should have been held in by
At 13:31, things settled down a little when Ales Hemsky knotted the game at 4 with a power play goal. He made a dazzling move to explode through the slot and force a shot past Cam Ward as he charged in on him. It took an acrobatic move to avoid contact with Ward AND to score the goal. Somehow, he pulled it off. Jarrett Stoll and Chris Pronger got the helpers.
Just when it felt like it was going to overtime, the Oilers got a bit of a bad break. At 14:06, as the Canes were applying pressure in the Edmonton end, there was a collision that resulted in injury to star goaltender Dwayne Roloson. Andrew Ladd was streaking towards the net and was hit hard by Marc-Andre Bergeron. The hit drove Ladd into the goal, knocking the net off the pegs and Roloson to the ice. No replay was shown in the arena, but I was able to catch a glimpse of CBC's monitor. That replay (the only one I have seen) showed that it was not an incidence of goaltender interference, but one of a bad turn of events. Roloson was very slow to get up and had to be replaced by Ty Conklin, who hasn't played since the regular season.
Carolina didn't get very many shots off against the rusty Conklin. The first shot against him yielded a huge rebound, but no second chance. I thought Carolina would make an effort to throw everything at him, but they didn't get much of a chance. Fortunately for the home team, they didn't need very many chances.
At 19:27, Brindy scored the game winner unassisted. Jason Smith made a tremendous mistake leading to it. I won't say it was like Steve Smith in game seven of the 1986 Smythe Division finals, but it was a huge mistake that cost his team the game. After Conklin went behind the net to play a puck, Smith attempted to make a pass, but barely nudged the puck a few inches to Rod Brind'Amour who was staring at a completely vacant net. He easily backhanded it in for what would prove to be the game winner.
The last :30 were furious, and Edmonton actually had some quality chances, but Cam Ward stood tall every time, holding out for the win.
With a goal (6) and an assist (10), Viva was the third star.
With two goals (7, 8), Ray Whitney was the second star.
With two goals (10, 11), including the game winner, Brindy was the first star.
Game two will be Wednesday night at 8:00.