In Game 7, there's no comeback for the Oilers

Updated: June 20, 2006, 9:49 AM ET
Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Edmonton Oilers finally ran into a deficit they couldn't overcome.

Teams that forced Game 7 after trailing 3-1 in Stanley Cup finals
Team Opponent Game 7
'06 Oilers Hurricanes Lost
'94 Canucks Rangers Lost
'87 Flyers Oilers Lost
'54 Canadiens Red Wings Lost
'45 Red Wings Maple Leafs Lost
'42 Maple Leafs Red Wings Won

It took until the last game of the last series to knock out the upstart Oilers, who barely made the playoffs before riding an unprecedented wave to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.

Edmonton fell short Monday night and lost 3-1 to the Carolina Hurricanes. To say no one thought they'd get this far would be an understatement.

They "Got Electric" in Oil Country but fizzled on Tobacco Road. When the game ended, they hung their heads together on the bench as fireworks blasted and streamers fell from above. Todd Harvey cried, and his teammates watched the Hurricanes celebrate.

These Oilers were set to add to the history they made on the way to becoming the first No. 8 seed to make the finals.

"We truly believed that we're invincible, and we thought all along that we could overcome any adversity," forward Ethan Moreau said. "It looked like we were going to do it. It's the first time all year we fell short."

A 3-1 series deficit in the championship round didn't shake them, despite the knowledge that only one team came back from that hole to win in the finals.

But they fought to pull out an overtime win on the road in Game 5 and then staved off elimination again with a 4-0 thumping of Carolina at home Saturday.

Fernando Pisani and third-string goalie Jussi Markkanen did all they could to keep the dream of a sixth NHL championship alive but the Oilers met the same fate as 27 other clubs that trailed 3-1 in the finals -- they went home without the prize.

"Well, it doesn't work every time you put yourself in a hole," Markkanen said. "You can't come back every time."

Even in the last game, the Oilers tried. They trailed 2-0 heading into the third period before Pisani scored his playoff-leading 14th goal 1:03 into the final frame. Markkanen, who before Game 2 of the finals hadn't played since March 1, dived left and right and flashed his glove to thwart chance after chance the Hurricanes threw at him.

Pisani scored only 18 goals in the regular season yet had a shot at the tying tally late, only to be stopped in front by rookie goalie Cam Ward.

The Oilers always made a charge at the end. They just ran out of time.

"We started to gain momentum there later in the second and in the third, finally got one by him," forward Ryan Smyth said. "Obviously, it was too late."

Until the second-to-last day of the regular season, there was no assurance the Oilers would qualify for the postseason. They got in at the wire and faced an uphill climb from the eighth spot in the Western Conference.

Shaky goaltending during the season nearly kept them out. The resurgence of trade-deadline acquisition Dwayne Roloson kept them alive.

"I'm still numb. It hurts," Smyth said. "Obviously you want to be on the other side, holding that Cup. But I'm proud of every player in that locker room."

Roloson was solid against the Presidents' Trophy-winning Detroit Red Wings and helped the Oilers overcome a postseason-opening loss en route to a convincing six-game win.

Next came the San Jose Sharks, who jumped to two quick victories at home and got within an overtime goal of shoving the Oilers into a 3-0 hole. They let them get up, and Edmonton never let the Sharks back in the series.

Three games later, it was on to the Western Conference finals.

The Anaheim Mighty Ducks had a week to prepare for the Oilers and never had a chance. Before they knew what hit them, they were down 3-0. Edmonton lost Game 4 but wrapped the series up in California.

Suddenly, the Oilers were in the finals. However, this time it was Edmonton that had to wait more than a week to play again.

The Oilers took a quick trip to New York to get some alone time and escape the Alberta capital, which yearned since 1990 for another Cup to go with the five Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Co. won in a seven-year span.

"In the history of the Oilers, they had to go to the Cup and lose one to learn what it took to win," Roloson said. "We're in the same thing. This is something we can use to get better, and hopefully we can make a dynasty."

Things started out well with a 3-0 lead in the opener, but that evaporated as did their experience in goal.

In the third period, a knee injury forced Roloson out for the series. His replacement, Ty Conklin, botched a play behind the net, allowing the winning goal.

Markkanen got the nod in Game 2 but the sting carried over, leaving the inexperienced goalie exposed.

A split of two games at home set the stage for yet another rally -- the last one. The one that fell a little short.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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