RALEIGH, N.C. — The Stanley Cup was in the RBC Center on Wednesday night, tucked in a blue packing case but polished and ready to be cradled by the Carolina Hurricanes.
The venerable trophy remained under wraps, bound today for Edmonton after the Oilers postponed the Hurricanes' party.
Fernando Pisani scored the first short-handed, overtime goal in the history of the Cup finals when he intercepted a pass and beat Carolina goalie Cam Ward with a short wrist shot 3 minutes 31 seconds into sudden-death, lifting the Oilers to a 4-3 victory and prolonging the series to at least six games.
The Hurricanes will get another chance to claim the Cup on Saturday at Rexall Place, but they were deflated by their inability to finish off the Oilers on their first try, in front of their home fans.
"Obviously, we didn't want to go back there," said forward Eric Staal, who couldn't hold onto a pass from teammate Cory Stillman and lost the puck to Pisani on the decisive goal.
"I have to get over this. The bottom line is we didn't win the game, and that was what we set out to do."
With the Hurricanes on the power play, Staal passed the puck to Stillman, who made what he called "a lazy pass" back to Staal. Pisani, Staal said, "was coming at me hard. I didn't see him coming. I've got to make a better play."
Pisani said he was merely in the right place at the right time. "Next thing you know, it was on a breakaway," said Pisani, who scored the game's first goal when he tipped home a shot by Chris Pronger 16 seconds into the first period.
Ward said he could see the play unfolding but was powerless to stop it.
"They played a clutch game today," said Ward, who grew up in a suburb of Edmonton and was an Oilers fan as a youngster.
"Sure, this isn't what we wished and hoped for, but we've got to look at the positives. We won the last time we were in Edmonton, so we know we can win there. And there's no sense in moping around."
But they have allowed the Oilers' confidence to blossom. After barely making the playoffs as the eighth-seeded team in the West, the Oilers upset the Red Wings, Sharks and Mighty Ducks to advance; on Wednesday they became the seventh team to win Game 5 of the finals on the road when trailing 3-1 in the series.
Only the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs have won the Cup after facing a 3-1 deficit in the finals, but the Oilers think they can too. If they win Saturday, the Cup will be awarded in Raleigh on Monday.
"We've been counted out before," said defenseman Steve Staios, who was serving a tripping penalty when Pisani scored the winner.
"But we have a belief system in our room. There's no doubt that we feel we should be the team that wins the Stanley Cup. As we've elevated our game, our chances are getting better and better."
Supporting his case was the Oilers' success on the power play on Wednesday, after they'd scored only once with the man advantage in their first 25 attempts in the series, and their solidity at even strength. All three Carolina goals were the result of power plays, two by Staal and one by Ray Whitney.
The Oilers outshot the Hurricanes, 7-0, in overtime, determined to be aggressive. Carolina was fading after losing defenseman Aaron Ward first to an upper-body injury and then an ankle injury, and losing center Doug Weight to an apparent arm injury in the third period.
"This is the kind of hockey that we need to play," Oilers center Shawn Horcoff said. "We played good road hockey and we have to go home and play a similar style at home."
The teams combined to score five goals in the first period. After Pisani opened the scoring, the Hurricanes took a 2-1 lead on goals by Staal and Whitney. Ales Hemsky scored from the left circle at 13:25 during a power play to bring the Oilers even, and Michael Peca gave them a 3-2 lead from close range during a four-on-four. Staal poked the puck from beneath Jussi Markkanen's glove during a Carolina power play at 9:56 of the second period to tie it at 3-3.
Whitney hit the crossbar at 12:08 of the third period, but the Hurricanes remained a goal and a victory short of taking the wrappings off the Cup.
"It hurts right now," forward Kevyn Adams said. "It's tough to swallow. You want to finish teams off when you can.... We're going to have to pull together. It's going to have to be a gutsy effort from us going into Edmonton."