Pronger scores first penalty shot goal in finals history

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Edmonton's Chris Pronger scored the first penalty shot goal in Stanley Cup finals history when he beat Carolina goalie Cam Ward in the series opener on Monday night.

It was the first try of Pronger's 12-year NHL career, and what a time for it. The defenseman took the attempt after Hurricanes counterpart Niclas Wallin covered a loose puck in the crease with his right hand during a wild scramble.

Oilers coach Craig MacTavish had the choice of any player on the ice to take the penalty shot, which limited him to forwards Georges Laraque, Rem Murray and Ethan Moreau -- who combined for 14 goals in the regular season and two more in the playoffs.

Pronger quickly became the best option over that trio and fellow defenseman Jaroslav Spacek.

"I wouldn't say it's automatic," MacTavish said of his choice, "but it's automatic when he shoots one."

The rare call was made by referee Mick McGeough, who officiated his first finals game.

Pronger skated down the middle, drifted to his left and fired a shot that rose slightly off the ice and sailed over Ward's right pad. It flew past his stick and inside the right post and gave Edmonton a 2-0 lead with 9:24 left in the second period, taking the wind out of the Hurricanes and their fans for the time being.

The only time Ward, a rookie goalie, touched the puck was when he angrily whacked it away as it slid past him on the way back out.

It was the ninth penalty shot awarded in the finals history and the first since Vancouver's Pavel Bure was stopped by New York Rangers goalie Mike Richter on June 7, 1994, in Game 4.

Laraque started this play from behind the Carolina goal. He pushed a backhander past the right post into the crease, and Hurricanes defenseman Aaron Ward was left fumbling to pick up his own stick.

Wallin tried to cover up and block the front of the net when the puck came his way. He reached with his right hand and put it on top, causing McGeough to blow the whistle and emphatically point to center ice while making the call.

The Oilers are 2-for-3 on postseason penalty shots. Wayne Gretzky has the other, scoring in Game 3 of the 1984 conference finals against Minnesota.