EDMONTON, Alberta - With one more Carolina win, hockey's most prized trophy will be headed to college basketball country.
Mark Recchi and Cory Stillman scored for the Hurricanes, Cam Ward had another strong game in the nets and Carolina defeated the Edmonton Oilers 2-1 Monday night to take a commanding lead in the Stanley Cup finals.
Carolina got the split it needed in Edmonton and now heads home with a 3-1 advantage in the best-of-seven series. Game 5 is Wednesday night in hoops-loving Raleigh, now on the cusp of putting a different kind of championship on ice.
After Edmonton's Sergei Samsonov and Stillman scored 29 seconds apart in the first period, the Hurricanes forechecked their way to the go-ahead goal with 4:04 left in the second period. Stillman was right in the middle of things again.
When Edmonton defenseman Chris Pronger tried to clear the zone along the boards, Stillman got a stick on it. The puck sailed out in front of the goal, where Eric Staal jumped to knock it down and sent a quick pass to Recchi at the side of the net.
He lifted a shot under the crossbar while Oilers goalie Jussi Markkanen crawled along the ice in a futile attempt to get a piece of it.
Markkanen, making his third straight start in place of injured starter Dwayne Roloson, had another strong game after anchoring the Oilers' 2-1 win in Game 3. The replacement made 18 saves, several of them downright spectacular.
In the first period, Markkanen appeared to get the shaft of his stick on a shot by Rod Brind'Amour - just enough to send it off the crossbar. The Oilers goalie also turned aside Justin Williams with a brilliant glove save early in the third, the left hand coming out of nowhere to snatch a puck that was headed for the top right corner.
Ward's 20 saves didn't look as acrobatic as Markkanen's - maybe because the 22-year-old rookie is playing so well that he makes everything look easy. His positioning was superb, he rarely gave up a dangerous rebound and Carolina could rest easy with its last line of defense.
So could Edmonton. Markkanen was fine; the Oilers were let down again by their ineffective power play, which failed to convert five chances - including a lengthy two-man advantage for the second game in a row - and dropped to 1-for-25 in the series.