Tue, May 16, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Hurricanes blow into conference finals

AP , RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA

Slovakia defender Rene Vydareny, right, stops Sweden's Andreas Karlsson during their game at the World Championship in Riga, Latvia, on Sunday. Slovakia won 5-2.

PHOTO: AP

Cory Stillman scored the go-ahead goal on a power play midway through the second period, and the Carolina Hurricanes beat the New Jersey Devils 4-1 on Sunday to advance to the NHL Eastern Conference finals.

The Edmonton Oilers downed the San Jose Sharks 6-3 and led their series 3-2, with a chance to clinch on Wednesday.

Frantisek Kaberle, Ray Whitney and Eric Staal also scored for the Hurricanes, who have won eight of their past nine games in the playoffs and clinched this best-of-seven matchup in five games.

"I think we deserved it," Carolina captain Rod Brind'Amour said. "We were the better team, we felt it right from Game 1, and now we're moving on."

They won a series at home for the first time and will face the Buffalo Sabres next, with the winner advancing to the Stanley Cup finals.

The Devils took a 1-0 lead less than a minute after the opening faceoff, when Brian Gionta took advantage of a fortuitous bounce to beat rookie goalie Cam Ward, who was pulled after allowing four goals in a little more than one period on Saturday.

He finished with 17 saves, including 10 in the first period when Carolina played short-handed for 8 minutes. The Devils failed to capitalize on any of those power plays, and Kaberle tied the score on the Hurricanes' second shot of the game.

"The feeling is the same, it's that sense of relief," Carolina defenseman Aaron Ward said. "If we didn't do it here, and we didn't approach this like it was our Game 7, what kind of bed are we making for ourselves? The coaching staff preached this was the end-all, be-all game, and we had to take it right now and seize it."

Oilers 6, Sharks 3

In San Jose, California, Fernando Pisani broke a tie with his second goal early in the third period, and Ryan Smyth had two goals and two assists in eighth-seeded Edmonton's victory.

Edmonton got a boost shortly before the opening faceoff, when fans in the Shark Tank inexplicably booed the Canada national anthem. The Oilers headed into Game 6 on Wednesday with a chance to make the conference finals for the first time since 1992.

The Oilers jumped to a 3-1 lead with three goals on their first eight shots, including Shawn Horcoff's short-handed score just 12 seconds into the third period. San Jose rallied to tie it with quick goals from Christian Ehrhoff and Jonathan Cheechoo, but Pisani scored on a 2-on-1 break with Shawn Horcoff with about 15:57 to play.

Jarret Stoll and Smyth added power-play goals in the final minutes. Horcoff had a goal and two assists for Edmonton.

Scott Thornton also scored for the Sharks, who had won six straight postseason games before losing the last three.

Jaroslav Balastik broke a tie with a fluke third-period goal to give the Czech Republic a 6-4 win over Canada on Sunday to stay unbeaten.

Both teams had already clinched quarterfinal spots from Group E along with Finland and the US.

It was the first loss for Canada in the championship.

"We're disappointed, no question," Canada coach Marc Habscheid said. "We started out very poorly. In the second and third periods we played more determined and with that good old Canadian passion."

Olympic champion Sweden also lost for the first time, dropping a 5-2 decision to Slovakia, which needed a win to keep its chances alive for a quarterfinal spot from Group F.

Each team in both groups has one game left.

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