Was Oilers' late play brainless or tactical? Time will tell

Updated: June 8, 2006, 2:09 AM ET
By Scott Burnside | ESPN.com

RALEIGH, N.C. -- So, were the Edmonton Oilers trying to intimidate the Carolina Hurricanes late in Game 2 or was it merely a spasm of brainlessness from a team that had been dominated in almost every aspect of the game?

The answer to that question may have a lot to do with whether this final series is over in a matter of days or whether the Oilers, as they have all spring, can regroup and steal the momentum back from a confident, disciplined Carolina team.

Certainly, the 23 minutes in penalties accumulated in the third period of the Oilers' 5-0 loss Wednesday were out of character, but so was the manner in which they were dominated in every aspect of the game.

"That's inexcusable," said Oilers forward Michael Peca. "In the third period, when we're trying to continue to be physical, we can't do it in an irresponsible way and to continue to give up penalties because, one, we're making ourselves look bad, and two we're leaving our goalie out to dry and we have got to do a better job of that."

There was a sadly predictable pattern to the Oilers' play as the game got away from them.

There was Sergei Samsonov making no effort to get out of the way of Carolina netminder Cam Ward, knocking the rookie over and drawing a goaltender interference penalty early in the third. The Hurricanes promptly made it 4-0 on the power play.

Then, Ethan Moreau tried to take Glen Wesley's head off with a high punch-like check, which set the stage for the Canes' fifth and final goal.

"In the third, you can call us undisciplined, but at the same time, we're trying to be physical. It's been our mindset and our strategy throughout the series that we're going to have to get in and take the body," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said.

The most egregious example of acting out was Edmonton enforcer Georges Laraque's hit from behind on Carolina forward Andrew Ladd with less than four minutes left in the game. Laraque was given a major for boarding and a 10-minute misconduct. Luckily, Ladd was unhurt.

It's no coincidence that it was Ladd who became entangled with Oilers defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron and crashed into Edmonton netminder Dwayne Roloson, ending his season in Game 1.

"He's the guy that's taken our goalie out, so you know our players, obviously, if you get the chance to finish your check on Ladd, you are going to do that," MacTavish said.

Very good. At least there was no suggestion of a bounty.

Still, if the Hurricanes believed the Oilers were out of line, they kept it to themselves. Captain Rod Brind'Amour wouldn't answer questions about the Laraque hit, shaking his head in what appeared to be at least mild disgust.

"They are sending a message, obviously, for next game, but I thought our team was composed that way," said Carolina forward Cory Stillman. "We weren't staying in after whistles and we skated away. It was great."

Scott Burnside is an NHL writer for ESPN.com.

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