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Ty Conklin still stinging from Game 1 gaffe
Jim Matheson, The Edmonton Journal
Published: Wednesday, January 31, 2007


EDMONTON - We've all done things where we slap ourselves on the head and say, "What was I thinking?"

In Ty Conklin's case, it was leaving his net to move the puck with 32 seconds left in Game 1 of the 2006 Stanley Cup finals in Carolina, getting his signals crossed with Oilers captain Jason Smith, resulting in an empty-net goal by Rod Brind'Amour and a 5-4 Hurricanes victory.

It was one of those "oh my gawd" mistakes by a good man, Conklin, who was only in the game because the Oilers' No. 1 goalie, Dwayne Roloson, had limped to the bench on a sprained knee after Carolina winger Andrew Ladd plowed into him on a rush.

What people forget, of course, is that the Oilers had built a 3-0 lead in the second period, playing before a hostile crowd, and they let it get away. The game should never have come down to one error as the clock ticked down. But it did, much to Conklin's dismay. The Oilers lost and Jussi Markkanen -- who had rotated with Conklin for months until they acquired Roloson at the March trade deadline, got the call for the next six games.

When Edmonton's season ended June 19, Conklin wasn't surprised that his days as an Oiler were over. "I had a pretty good idea," he said.

Conklin, who wound up in Columbus, signing as a free-agent for a two-way $500,000 contract, will get his shot against his ex-Oilers teammates tonight. With Pascal Leclaire (torn knee cartilage) and Fredrik Norrena (groin, who blanked the Oilers 4-0 in early December here) on the sidelines, Conklin, who has spent much of the year playing in Syracuse, may end up playing against Markkanen.

"I'm just looking forward to coming back to Edmonton and and saying hello to some people ... this is the organization I started with," said Conklin, a fierce competitor with lots of athletic ability, who played 67 games for the Oilers. He started 50, won five more than he lost, and compiled a .904 save percentage.

He hadn't played for six weeks when Ladd and Oilers defenceman Marc-Andre Bergeron got tangled up and Roli the Goalie was sandwiched. It was an uncomfortable scenario for Conklin: He didn't like sitting, but he didn't like seeing Roloson get hurt, either. Roli was hot; Conklin was not when Roloson left with five minutes to go in the third and the game tied 4-4. He made a couple of saves, but in the last minute, the puck was deep in the Oilers end and before you could spell Brind'Amour, the Hurricanes had won it.

"I take blame for it," said Conklin. "I was trying to make a play. Maybe if I'd banged it off the glass ..."

He didn't try to duck anything; that was never his style. He has always been brutally honest when describing saves and plays. In hindsight, he should have played it safe, but who hasn't looked back and wished they'd done things differently?

"It was a difficult situation, watching when you haven't played for a month-and-a-half and next thing you know you're in the Stanley Cup final," Conklin said.

"It's one thing when a goalie gets pulled, you have time to prepare; it's another when a goalie gets hurt and you're in. You're just trying to get your heart rate under 250 beats a minute," he said when he signed with Columbus in July.

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