You can’t tell from the TV ratings on NBC, but there are actually a few of us sports-fanatic types that are watching the Stanley Cup Finals of the National Hockey League. And this is after the first two games were only available on some obscure cable channel called the Outdoor Life Network or OLN (renamed “Versus” soon I believe). As a lifelong Chicago Blackhawks fan (who have been pathetic for the last decade or so), I could care less whether or not the Carolina Hurricanes (formerly the Hartford Whalers) or the Edmonton Oilers take the cup. But I do tend to pull for the underdog, and the Oilers have filled that role admirably. The first 8th seed to make the finals in the current playoff format, they stormed out to a 3 goal lead in Game 1 on the road before the roof caved in. Not only did they end up losing 5-4, they also lost their stud starting goalie Dwayne Roloson with a knee injury for the duration of the series. The next game in Carolina they got waxed 5-0. Ouch! Series over, right? Not so fast my friend.
Backup goalie Jussi Markkanen picked up his play, and Edmonton went home for Game 3 and won 2-1. Carolina won a tough Game 4 on the road 2-1, returning home for Game 5 on Wednesday up 3-1 and a chance to win it all in front of their fans on their home ice. They scored on 3 of 6 power plays to send the game into sudden death overtime (always exciting in the playoffs), and when an Oiler defenseman was called for a tripping penalty about 3 minutes in, I’m sure Hurricane fans everywhere were licking their chops. But down a man, the Oilers’ Fernando Pisani intercepted a lazy pass in Carolina’s end of the ice and scored on a gorgeous shot in the upper left hand corner of the goal–the first short-handed overtime goal in Stanley Cup Finals history!
So it’s back to Edmonton for Game 6 Saturday night. Even if the Oilers still end up losing the series, they should be commended for battling back mightily and providing some thrilling playoff action–at least for the handful of us diehards still tuning in.