'Canes were able

Edmonton Oilers' Ryan Smyth is checked by Carolina Hurricanes' Frantisek Kaberle in front of goalie...

Edmonton Oilers' Ryan Smyth is checked by Carolina Hurricanes' Frantisek Kaberle in front of goalie Cam Ward during second period action in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C., on Monday, June 19, 2006. (Edmonton Sun/Darryl Dyck)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:11 AM ET

RALEIGH -- Third time plucky.

After two failed attempts to clinch a Stanley Cup championship, the Carolina Hurricanes made good on their final mulligan last night, winning Game 7 with the same hunger and resolve that was supposed to have vanished for good in Game 5.

They needed every ounce of energy and willpower in their being to survive the hard-charging Cinderella story that was Edmonton, and got it in a thrilling, too-tense-to-watch 3-1 victory.

"That was probably the hardest game all year and it had to be because Edmonton did a heck of a job," said Canes coach Peter Laviolette, who couldn't exhale until Justin Williams scored into an empty net with 1:01 left in regulation.

"But our guys were just relentless, they never, ever stopped."

Neither did the Oilers, which made the Hurricanes' first-ever championship (depriving Edmonton of its sixth) that much sweeter.

"I can't describe it," said Kevyn Adams. "You dream about this your whole life.

"I'm just so proud of my teammates. It was a gutsy effort. I honestly had a great feeling coming into those game because we've always battled, we've always found a way when we needed to."

SUPPOSED TO HAVE BEEN SPENT

After giving up a short-handed goal in Game 5 and a blowout loss in Game 6, the Canes were supposed to have been physically and emotionally spent.

Too old.

Too tired.

Too small.

Unwilling to pay the price.

Turns out, they weren't.

"This team doesn't give up," said Rod Brind'Amour. "When our backs are against the wall that's when we seem to play our best. It was desire. We had too many guys who were not going to be denied, too many guys who sacrificed their whole careers, and this was the time."

Knowing full well that everyone thought they were done, the Canes closed their doors, huddled up and promised each other they'd pour their souls into one more game.

"It's sport, a lot of teams like to say that it's us against the world," said Aaron Ward. "After Game 6 we KNEW it was us against the world.

"`But we have a lot of character in our locker-room, both teams do. It's all about character and we knew we had it."

"We just continued to battle and work," added Eric Staal, whose poise under pressure bodes well for the future of this team. "It took a little longer than we hoped, but we got it done."

CORY AND CLAUDE

For Cory Stillman, it's his second Stanley Cup in as many years. He becomes the first player since Claude Lemieux to win back-to-back with different teams.

"What a feeling," he roared. "It makes you want to win again. You never take this for granted. I'm standing next to a guy (Mark Recchi) who won when he was 22 and didn't win again until he was 38."

What about it, Recchi?

"It's been a long time," he smiled.

"Getting back here again after so long really makes you appreciate it that much more."

The Canes didn't look at all like the team that seemed so dead and buried 48 hours earlier.

They stormed Edmonton out of the gate, bringing their sea of red to a frenzy with Ward's goal 86 seconds into the contest. Frantisek Kaberle gave them a 2-0 lead in the second period and the game seemed theirs.

But the Oilers, as they have all playoffs, fought back when all looked lost, to make a game of it.

"That last period seemed like it took two hours," said Adams. "But we were at home where we wanted to be, our fans gave us a big life and we're Stanley Cup champions."

The way they won it, overcoming the self-inflicted adversity and doubt, is what will stick with Laviolette.

"This is probably the greatest feeling of my life," said the coach. "Long after I hold the cup tonight and have my time with it in the summer I'll remember where this team came from, how hard they fought for each other."


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