On Wednesday night, the Canes shut out the Oilers 5-0, and took a 2-0 lead in the best of seven Stanley Cup Final series. On Monday night, Edmonton was the better team for 40 minutes, but ended up losing. On Wednesday, it was a different story. Carolina dominated almost the entire game. They dominated the special teams battle, they dominated the face offs, and (although the league doesn't keep these stats anymore) they dominated the time of possession in the opposing team's zone
Of all people, Andrew Ladd got things started for the Canes at 6:21 of the first. At 20 years, he's the youngest player in this Cup Final, and he's been looking like anything but a rookie. His two-way play has been extraordinary, and he's been really close on some other scoring chances. He came in on an odd-man rush with Eric Staal and Frank Kaberle. It really amounted to a 2-on-1. He was at the top of the right circle, with Staal charging in on the left. Instead of dishing to the superstar, he went ahead and took the shot from the top of the circle. Frank Kaberle made a great play in the Carolina zone to knock the puck away from Steve Staios, then head-manned it to Staal. Staal nudged it to Laddy, who had a notion to return it to Staal, but instead let a wrister go that easily beat Jussi Markkanen. It was his second goal, and Staalsy's 15th helper of the post-season. There was no way of even imagining it at the time, but this turned out to be the game winner.
Although there was no scoring for the rest of the period, Carolina controlled. Even during the three power plays Edmonton had, Carolina warded off (pun intended) any threats.
While Raffi Torres was gone for interference, Carolina converted a power play, giving the Canes a 2-0 lead at 10:28 of the second. The Canes were doing some routine puck-rotation stuff when Frantisek Kaberle fired a shot from the slot. It hit Markkanen, then trickled through his equipment and in the goal. Ray Whitney and Matt Cullen got the helpers.
In the waning seconds of the second, and the Canes applying insane pressure on the Finn, Cory Stillman got a hard-working, hard-earned goal. Nic Wallin fired a shot from the top of the right circle, which Jussi barely stopped by sliding to the near post. Stillman got a crack at it from in close, to the goaltender's left. Stillman's stuff-in was thwarted, but he corralled the rebound and wrapped all the way to the goalie's left. With a backhander, Stillman got another crack at it. This time, he lifted the puck over Markkanen's left shoulder . The even-strength goal, at 19:57, put the Canes way out front 3-0. Wallin and Viva got the assists.
The final period was characterized by some lazy, careless play by the Oilers. They committed six penalties, most of them the result of undisciplined overly aggressive play. Carolina converted two of five power play chances in the period.
At 3:25 of the third, Doug Weight made it 4-0. He was at the front of the crease and was able to re-direct a Mark Recchi shot. The puck glanced off his right skate, his stick blade, then in the goal. There was a brief review, where they were looking for a kicking motion by Weight. The power play goal was ruled good. Recchi and Cully got the assists.
At 4:12, Mark Recchi closed out the scoring with another power play goal. Matt Cullen made a completely insane no-look pass to Kaberle at the right point. Frankie attempted a one-timer from there, and it was redirected by the Recchin' ball out front.
As the period wore on, and it became more clear that the Oilers were not going to mount a comeback, things nearly got chippy. "G.G." Laraque took three consecutive penalties, and they were all of the "dumb" variety. Even "thuggish". Laraque, who has been used sparingly as a bit of an aggressor, was called for tripping at 11:14, and was ejected from the game after being given a five minute boarding major (plus game misconduct) at 16:44. With the goon ejected, and a major penalty on the board, this gave the Canes an opportunity to pour gasoline on the fire. However, they simply used the clock as their ally, melting the remaining 3:16.
With three assists (10, 11, 12), Matt Cullen got the third star.
With a goal (3) and two assists (7, 8), Frantisek Kaberle got the second star.
With a 25-save shutout, Cam Ward earned the first star.
There were certainly doubts about Marranen, and his performance didn't help matters. Although his defense was less than spectacular, he allowed five of 26 shots to go through. To you and me, that's a save percentage of .808.
Indeed, the special teams were a huge factor tonight. Carolina converted three of ten power plays while Edmonton failed to convert any of their six power plays.
Carolina will head up to Edmonton on Saturday with a commanding two-game lead. Anything less than a sweep by the Oilers would spell doom for them. I'm guessing that the Oil will bounce back for a game three win.
B LIST CELEBRITY SIGHTINGS: 5
Carolina Panthers wide recievers Steve Smith and Ricky Proehl
ESPN's Chris Berman
Puck drop will be at 8:00 on Saturday. I haven't reviewed the game yet. When I do, there may or may not be some commentary about Laraque.
5 years ago