Welcome back to Last Word on Hockey’s summer series where we look at the biggest game in team history. Each day we will be back with a new team to review. Looking at things like the lead-up, what happened, followed, and why it makes it the biggest game. The biggest game does not automatically mean a win, either. Sometimes, it can be a loss that set the franchise back massively. Sit back and enjoy as we break down all 31 teams’ most important game. The full series is found here. In this article, Last Word On Hockey writer Josh Erickson looks at the Carolina Hurricanes biggest game.
The Carolina Hurricanes sure have a way of making things exciting. They’ve only made the playoffs three times since the 2004-05 lockout, but they’ve at least reached the Eastern Conference Final in all of those playoff appearances. In 2006, they made it all the way, defeating the Cinderella Edmonton Oilers in seven hard-fought games. Driven by rookie sensation Cam Ward, Carolina powered through the Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, and Buffalo Sabres en route to a June date with the Oilers in the Final. The series culminated on June 19, 2006, when Carolina defeated Edmonton 3-1 in Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Final. Rod Brind’Amour got his Cup, and it was the Carolina Hurricanes biggest game in franchise history.
Carolina Hurricanes Biggest Game
Losing Their Grip on the Series
Carolina came into Game 5 of this series up 3-1 after winning both games at home and splitting with the Oilers in Edmonton. Carolina forced overtime in Game Five after being down 3-2 in the first period, but a shorthanded laser by the Oilers’ Fernando Pisani got the Oilers back in the series.
The Hurricanes were seemingly rattled by the defeat, as they posted a goose egg in Game Six back in Edmonton, losing 4-0. Edmonton had all the momentum heading back to the RBC Center (now PNC Arena) in Raleigh for the do-or-die Game Seven.
A franchise steeped with greatness was poised to come back. 3-1 down to victorious, in a series against a talented, but unproven squad. Fortunately, for the Hurricanes, they were able to reverse their fortunes and down the Oilers.
First Period Chaos
Game Seven ended up being like most of this series: low-scoring and low-shooting. Carolina had the edge in shots when all was said and done, 26-23. However, Carolina got on it early, as they forced pressure in the offensive zone immediately off the opening draw. Matt Cullen and Mark Recchi did a remarkable job keeping control of the puck down low, but the Oilers kept their ground. But soon after, the puck seeped back out of the chaos in front towards Carolina defender Aaron Ward hammered the puck past a screened Oilers goalie Jussi Markkanen, and Carolina was up 1-0 just 01:26 into the game.
More chaos ensued in the dying seconds of the first, as a Craig Adams shot handcuffed Markkanen, hit the crossbar and nearly went in, but was narrowly kept out by Markkanen and the Oilers defense. Nothing came out of the play.
Down to the Wire
In the first quarter of the second period, though, Carolina would strike again. They got a power-play off a Jaroslav Spacek holding penalty, and they made the Oilers pay quickly. Just seven seconds into the power play, Carolina d-man Frantisek Kaberle got the puck off the draw and ripped it from long-range past Markkanen. The RBC Center was rocking, and Carolina had completely flipped the script in terms of momentum.
Early in the third, however, the Oilers showed they weren’t done yet. A point shot by Raffi Torres created a freak play in front, where Pisani and Rem Murray rushed the net. Pisani got the last touch as Ward tumbled back into his net, and the Oilers were back within one goal.
The Oilers gave it everything they had, but eventual Conn Smythe winner Cam Ward stayed strong at his post, and Justin Williams sealed it for Carolina with an empty-net goal in one of his many illustrious Game 7s.
This game brought the franchise its only Stanley Cup in riveting fashion, making it the biggest game in Carolina Hurricanes history. However, the team fell apart, and neither they or the Oilers returned to the playoffs the following year. They would only see playoff hockey twice after that, once in 2009 and again in 2019. The lost in the Eastern Conference Final both times.
While the franchise hasn’t seen much success, that makes a game like this all the more special for Caniacs. If you were lucky enough to be there, it was one of the loudest games in NHL history. It was a game to remember, it was a series to remember, and it was a season to remember. Carolina came out on top of the mountain thanks to this game, and there are very few who are going to forget it anytime soon.