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Carolina Wins Hockey's Stanley Cup

With a couple of unlikely scorers and Cam Ward almost flawless in goal, the Carolina Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup for the first time in the franchise's history — under any name — with a 3-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Monday.

Low-scoring defensemen Aaron Ward and Frantisek Kaberle carried the offense for the Hurricanes — they were each six-goal scorers during the NHL regular season and had combined for only four in the playoffs.

Ward, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the most valuable player in the playoffs, made sure two goals were just enough, He 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 the 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).

Thanks to the kid, all those Carolina old-timers finally got to hoist the Stanley Cup.

Rod Brind'Amour cried. Bret Hedican jumped for joy. Even Doug Weight — bad shoulder and all — lifted hockey's most revered trophy above his head. It tilted slightly to his right, but he held on.

"Goaltending wins you championships, make no mistake about it," said Brind'Amour, the 35-year-old captain, his eyes still red after he left the ice. "I got to raise the cup because of that kid."

Brind'Amour wasn't the only member of the 30-something club who finally broke through.

There was Hedican, 35, who lost in his first two trips to the finals. And Weight, 35, who finally made it for the first time in his 15th season. And Whitney, 34, who didn't reach the finals until Year 14. And the most patient one of all, 37-year-old Glen Wesley, who had played in the eighth-most regular-season games (1,311) in NHL history without winning a championship.

All of them will be getting their names on the cup.

Finally.


"I'm extremely excited to get married this summer, and I guess that trophy will make a nice centerpiece" at the wedding, Cam Ward joked after the game.

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' easy shot 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.

For some Carolina fans, the victory was both priceless and pricey, reports .

"I knew it was coming out tonight. I was hoping it was for us, because I'd hate to pay what I paid to see it for Edmonton," said Greg Gulas. "It was fabulous."

The fans partied through the night celebrating the championship.

It was the first NHL championship featuring two teams from the old World Hockey Association. The Carolina, in the WHA, was called the Hartford Whalers.

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 Finnish 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.