By Jesse Campigotto
This feels like the end, doesn't it?
After a moderately to wildly successful (depending on who you talk to) post-lockout regular season and two months of playoffs, the NHL could hand out the Stanley Cup tonight if the Carolina Hurricanes can get one more win over the fading Edmonton Oilers.
After a series of exhausting efforts, Edmonton may be out of gas. If tonight's game is the last of the season, it will be the end of a remarkable run by the Oilers, who barely scraped into the post-season, then upset the Red Wings, Sharks and Ducks en route to an improbable appearance in the Cup final.
Now it looks like the deck is stacked against Edmonton as it leaves the friendly confines of Rexall Place for the hostile territory of Raleigh, N.C. to face a surging opponent that's looking for its first Stanley Cup win in franchise history.
Of course, the Oilers of these playoffs have always seemed to have a trick up their sleeves. Maybe they've got one more.
GAME OVERThanks for joining us tonight. We'll be back Saturday night with live commentary on Game 6. Go nuts, Oil Country. Tonight belongs to you.
GAME OVERContrary to my ill-advised lede, this wasn't the end at all. The Oilers win a highly entertaining contest (the best of the series, methinks) and force a sixth game Saturday in Edmonton. Suddenly we've got a whole new series. You know the Edmonton fans will be in a state somewhere beyond a frenzy Saturday, and if the Oil can win that, anything can happen in Game 7 back in Carolina.
OVERTIME, 3:31Final score: Edmoton 4, Carolina 3. Fernando Pisani steals the puck from Staal at the Carolina blue-line, goes in on a breakaway and snaps a shot over Ward for the shorthanded game-winner. The Oilers live!
OVERTIME, 3:03A huge chance coming up for the 'Canes. Steve Staios hauled down Mark Recchi as Recchi tried to break through the Oilers' defence. Power play, Carolina.
OVERTIME, 1:13Ward just made a game-saver for Carolina, getting his right pad out to stone Radek Dvorak, who spun and fired from the slot.
THIRD INTERMISSIONTime for my OT goal predictions: for the Oilers, Ryan Smyth. For the Hurricanes, Cory Stillman.
THIRD INTERMISSIONBefore this game it felt like hockey had run its course. I'm sure fans in Edmonton and North Carolina felt differently, but the past two games were kind of slow, and with the weather warming up and the World Cup underway, I'm sure a lot of people were looking forward to the hockey playoffs coming to an end. But with the action we've seen tonight, I'm hoping we'll see more. At the very least, we'll head into the summer with fond memories.
THIRD PERIOD, 20:00True to form, the third ends with a flurry of action. The 'Canes had a great chance when Hemsky coughed up the puck to give Carolina a 4 on 2. Staal carried the puck up the left wing and tried to centre it for a one-timer, but his pass went behind his teammate. The period closed with the puck hemmed in the Oilers zone, but Carolina couldn't get the winner. We're goin' to O.T.
THIRD PERIOD, 17:59The end-to-end action continues. Staal was looking dangerous on a rush seconds ago but lost the puck and put himself offside.
THIRD PERIOD, 14:50We were just treated to one of the best sequences of the series. First, Carolina peppered Markkanen with scoring chances but the Oilers goalie somehow kept the puck out. On one chance, Whitney was left alone in front but hit the left post. Then the Oilers raced down to the other end and Smyth just missed scoring by re-directing a pass off the rush. If this turns out to be the last game of the season, we're going out with a bang.
THIRD PERIOD, 11:45It's looking like Harry Neale was right about Weight. He hasn't been seen since the apparent injury to his shoulder.
THIRD PERIOD, 10:37Carolina kills off the Vasicek penalty. After a rough start, the Hurricanes' penalty killing has tightened up, erasing the last three Edmonton man advantages.
THIRD PERIOD, 7:53If there was ever a time that the referees would put away the whistles, it would be this - third period, tie game, Cup on the line. Thankfully, though, they haven't. Josef Vasicek was just called for hooking Ryan Smyth - a penalty that wouldn't have been called under this scenario in the "old NHL." It's the 'Canes second penalty of the period, after Mike Commodore was called for holding earlier.
THIRD PERIOD, 3:52Any fears that the teams would play tentatively, afraid to give up the winning goal, have been assuaged. Both teams seem intent on attacking, so we should by in for an entertaining finish.
THIRD PERIOD, 0:52Doug Weight is sandwiched by two Oilers and immediately heads to the bench favouring his left shoulder. Harry Neale is of the thinking that Weight will not be back.
SECOND PERIOD, 20:00Only one goal in the period, but some good action. And what a setup for the third - tie game, next goal could win the Stanley Cup.
SECOND PERIOD, 18:55Ethan Moreau has been all over the ice tonight. He's had a few good forays into the Carolina zone but just didn't have the speed to beat a defenceman and get himself close enough to the net for a good chance.
SECOND PERIOD, 14:57There hasn't been as much scoring in the second period, but we're still seeing some very good hockey. There's been some good chances at both ends and plenty of sustained action without any whistles. Again, can we just all agree to play Games 6 and 7 (if necessary) in Raleigh? I love the Edmonton crowd and everything, but the hockey has been more entertaining in Carolina.
SECOND PERIOD, 9:56Edmonton 3, Carolina 3. The 'Canes get their third power-play goal of the night, and it's a weird one. Positioned at the side of the Oilers' net, Staal plays a carom off the boards, gets a shot on Markkanen and then pokes him to force the puck into the net.
SECOND PERIOD, 4:11The Oilers are called for a penalty and, for the second time in the game, Marrkanen heads to the bench, thinking the penalty is on Carolina. Markkanen has also, as usual, looked very shaky handling the puck. I can just see Craig MacTavish pulling him aside and saying, "You know what, Jussi? Don't worry about doing anyting extra. Really. You're doing great in net - just stay there. We'll take care of everything else. Don't go through the trouble. Really. It's fine."
SECOND PERIOD, 0:49Looks like we're in for more of the same in the second period. Stillman nearly scored about 15 seconds in when he had a whole half of the net to shoot at from in close. But Markkanen slid over and made a nifty pad save to foil the one-timer attempt.
FIRST INTERMISSIONIt's almost like these teams take on the personality of the home team. Fourteen goals were scored in Games 1 and 2, which were hosted by the high-flying Hurricanes. Then, six goals were scored in Games 3 and 4, at the home of the tighter-checking Oilers. Is it too late to petition for the rest of the series to be played in Raleigh?
FIRST PERIOD, 20:00What a period. The Oilers take a one-goal lead into the dressing room after an opening period in which the teams combined for one fewer goal than they scored in the last two games, both tight-checking 2-1 affairs. Tonight's game has the feel of the 5-4 free-for-all we saw in Raleigh in Game 1.
FIRST PERIOD, 19:42Edmonton 3, Carolina 2. Wow! So much action! With the teams playing 4 on 4, Mike Peca scoops up a rebound and roofs it over a sprawling Ward.
FIRST PERIOD, 18:34The Oilers, who have struggled on the power play all series, nearly scored their second PP goal of the night as Jarrett Stoll wires a shot from the point off the post. Maybe the Oilers' success even scared them a little because they immediately negated their power play by taking a penalty.
FIRST PERIOD, 13:25Edmonton 2, Carolina 2. The Oilers finally get a power play of their own and take advantage. Ales Hemsky makes like Phil Niekro (or the fat kid from the Mighty Ducks movies) and fires a high knuckleball-like one-timer that eludes Ward up high. We've got a shootout on our hands.
FIRST PERIOD, 10:16Edmonton 1, Carolina 2. Including this: Former Oilers stickboy Ray Whitney blasts a slap shot into the upper left corner for the 'Canes second power goal. Jussi Markkanen was screened by Doug Weight and did not see it.
FIRST PERIOD, 9:06The Hurricanes keep coming with a furious attack and force the Oilers into taking their third penalty - this one to Matt Greene. Apart from that early goal, everything is going Carolina's way.
FIRST PERIOD, 5:54Edmonton 1, Carolina 1. Eric Staal is stopped once, twice, but not thrice. The Oilers allow him to follow his shots right to the net and he bangs in the rebound off the third one. It's Staal's first goal of the series.
FIRST PERIOD, 5:03If anything, that goal woke up the Hurricanes and their fans. The 'Canes are all over the Oilers right now and just drew their second penalty of the game. The crowd is acting like that early goal never happened.
FIRST PERIOD, 0:16Edmonton 1, Carolina 0. And they score! Before you can say Daisy Duke, Chris Pronger stuns the Carolina crowd by firing a point shot through a crowd and in.
MOMENTS TO GAME TIMEThe Carolina fans are singing along to the American anthem. Nice try, guys. It's been done.
MOMENTS TO GAME TIMEPerhaps our last look at the Carolina anthem singer. She's got a lovely set of, um, pipes.
2 MINUTES TO GAME TIMEDon Cherry has been outdoing himself all playoffs with his selection of sport jackets. Tonight's features a royal blue, powder blue and purple floral pattern that covers the entire jacket. I love Don, but he's reminding me of a more flamboyantly-dressed Vito Spatafore more and more every day.
7 MINUTES TO GAME TIMEGeorges Laracque is out of the lineup and Todd Harvey is in for the Oilers. In other news, the captain of the Titanic feels the deck chairs should be arranged in rows of five.
15 MINUTES TO GAME TIMEIt's hurricane season in Raleigh. Note the small h - this is not an attempt at wordplay. CBC just showed footage of the results of a tropical storm, including some pretty significant flooding. The weather seems fine now, but Ron McLean wondered about the integrity of the electricity supply to the arena. So it could be lights out for the Oilers tonight. Now that's wordplay!