RALEIGH, N.C. – This time, the Stanley Cup gets to stay on Tobacco Road.
A couple of low-scoring Carolina defensemen put Edmonton's comeback on ice and Cam Ward stopped nearly everything that came his way, giving the Hurricanes their first NHL championship with a 3-1 victory over the Oilers on Monday night.
Aaron Ward and Frantisek Kaberle found the net for the Hurricanes — a couple of unlikely players to carry the offense, considering they were each six-goal scorers during the regular season and had combined for only four in the playoffs.
Then there's the guy who made sure two goals was just enough. Ward, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the most valuable player in the playoffs, wasn't even Carolina's No. 1 goalie at the beginning of the postseason, but the 22-year-old rookie got the call when Martin Gerber struggled in an opening round against Montreal.
Ward wound up winning more games in the playoffs (15) than he did backing up Gerber during the regular season (14).
Justin Williams finished off the Oilers, scoring an open-net goal with 1:01 remaining after Edmonton had cut the lead in half early in the third period.
Edmonton defenseman Chris Pronger, a stalwart throughout the series, gave up the puck in the Carolina zone and wound up making a helpless dive to block Williams' gimme into the goal.
Bret Hedican, among a contingent of 30-something Carolina players who had never won the cup, leaped in the air after Williams' shot went in. The crowd of nearly 19,000, which stood throughout the game, went into a frenzy.
"We want the cup!" they chanted over and over.
They got it, bringing the trophy to territory best known for Atlantic Coast Conference college basketball.
The Oilers have nothing to be ashamed of, making it all the way to the final game of the season after barely getting into the playoffs. Fernando Pisani did it again for Edmonton, scoring his playoff-leading 14th goal just over a minute into the third to make a game of it, and goalie Jussi Markkanen had another strong game with 25 saves.
The best-of-seven series looked like a rout when Carolina rallied from a three-goal deficit to win Game 1 and blew out the Oilers 5-0 in Game 2. The Oilers also had to cope with the loss of playoff star Dwayne Roloson, who had played every minute of the postseason in goal until he went out with a knee injury in the opener.
But, led by Markkanen, the Oilers rebounded from a 3-1 deficit with an overtime win in Carolina and a 4-0 rout in Edmonton, forcing a decisive seventh game.
That's where the comeback ended.