Cup dream dies for Oilers

Edmonton Oilers' Radek Dvorak (left) and Jarret Stoll are depressed after losing the Stanley Cup to...

Edmonton Oilers' Radek Dvorak (left) and Jarret Stoll are depressed after losing the Stanley Cup to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 7 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C., on Monday, June 19, 2006. (Edmonton Sun/Darryl Dyck)

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:06 AM ET

RALEIGH -- Clock strikes 12.

For all the passion, grit and will they'd shown to beat the odds and force Game 7 in the Stanley Cup final against the Carolina Hurricanes at the RBC Center last night, the Edmonton Oilers couldn't summon enough of what got them there when it mattered most.

Dubbed a Cinderella team after upsetting Detroit in the first round, overcoming a 0-2 deficit to San Jose and doing likewise in forcing Carolina to the wall with a resounding win Saturday in Edmonton, the Oilers stumbled ever so slightly when they finally got to the ball last night.

HURRICANES WERE HUNGRIER

Dominated 48 hours earlier, the Hurricanes looked like a tougher team, a hungrier team, a more determined team. Ultimately, they were the winning team, yanking the Cup from the Oilers grasp with a 3-1 win.

Midnight.

"I don't even know if there are words to describe it," Michael Peca said of coming up wanting after scoffing at long odds for two months. "We've got a lot to be proud of, but ...

"We knew we were defying the odds each and every time we won a game, every time we won a series. We wanted to rewrite history. We wanted to come back and finish it off. We fell short."

The storyline for the Oilers in these playoffs had been to fall behind and then fight back heroically. They didn't deviate from it last night as they spotted Carolina a 2-0 lead on goals by Aaron Ward and Frank Kaberle.

But, after Fernando Pisani cut it to 2-1, the Oilers couldn't find another hero, coming close but falling short before Justin Williams broke their hearts and signalled the start of Carolina's first-ever Cup celebration by hitting an empty net with 1:01 to play.

"We fully expected to come back, tie that game up and force overtime," said Shawn Horcoff. "We just fell one goal short.

"We knew they were going to come hard, especially being at home. What can you say? They came out with a great effort and they won the hockey game. We just couldn't get it done."

When Ward put the Hurricanes up 1-0 just 1:26 into the game, blowing a slapshot past Jussi Markkanen through traffic from the point, the Oilers were in a hole early.

In penalty trouble in the opening 20 minutes and second-best in far too many physical battles, that hole got deeper when Kaberle's slapper from the point deflected off captain Jason Smith and past Markkanen on a Carolina power play 4:18 into the second.

Looking out of breath Saturday, the Canes had the Oilers on their heels in a reversal of form. Outhit 35-16 through 40 minutes, the Oilers were lucky to get to the second intermission down by just two goals.

"We had to be a bit better," said Smith, who was attempting to block Kaberle's shot.

"Jussi was outstanding. It was unbelievable the way he dealt with the pressure he was put under from the time he jumped in. He was a huge part of us getting to Game 7."

FRUSTRATED AT EVERY TURN

On a night too many passes were a stride out of reach, clean cracks at Conn Smythe Trophy winner Cam Ward were scarce and shots found shin pads or skates when the Oilers did get something going.

Pisani, who scored the winners in Game 5 and Game 6 as the Oilers fought back from a 3-1 series deficit, chipped a Rem Murray rebound over Ward 1:03 into the third period.

Back roared the Oilers, as they'd done so many times, but Carolina refused to yield, surviving a penalty to Bret Hedican before Ward stole what looked like the 2-2 goal off the stick of Pisani with an outstretched pad with four minutes to play.

"In the second intermission, we still thought we could come back," said Jarret Stoll.

"We've done it plenty of times over the course of this season and the course of these playoffs. We felt confident we could do it ... we just couldn't get that goal."

Or that Cup.


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