Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 04/29/09 at 01:25 AM ET
Tuesday night was a do-or-die for the Hurricanes and the Devils. With 90 seconds to play, the Devils had a 3-2 lead in their own building and it looked grim for the Hurricanes. I had already started making mental notes for a Canes eulogy and for a concession letter to the gals at Interchangeable Parts.
The Canes decided that it wasn’t over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor. Nothing was going to be over until they decided it was. (please click the link if you don’t already get the joke)
Jussi Jokinen, the hero from the uber-dramatic game 4, scored a Finn-tastic (sorry) goal to tie it. The crowd at the Rock and the Devils on the ice were shell-shocked. Their shock turned to horror when Eric Staal fired a shot in from the right circle to win the game at 19:29 ....
Tuomo Ruutu, who had been as silent as a mouse in church, and whom I’ve called out on a couple of occasions, scored the game’s first goal at 1:02 of the first period. It kind of came out of nowhere. Technically speaking, it came from the top of the right circle, but it didn’t look like a scoring chance until the puck was already in the net. Matt Cullen and Dennis Seidenberg assisted on the goal.
The feeling of elation didn’t last long, because the ZZ Pop line all figured into a goal at 2:31. Jamie Langenbrunner scored from the bottom of the right circle, assisted by Zach Parise and Travis Zajac.
Jay Pandolfo gave the home team a 2-1 lead when he rifled one in from the low slot at 13:27, getting assists from John Madden and Brendan Shanahan. This was only the second point of the series for Shanny, who is one of the last remaining former Whalers.
The Wizard knotted it up at two with 3:42 gone in the second period. It was a bit of a fluky goal that went in off Whitney’s left skate, but the video review helped the goal stand up. Eric Staal and Chad LaRose assisted.
With Matt Cullen gone for slashing, Brian Rolston converted a Patrick Eaves turnover and put the Devils back on top with a shot from the top of the left circle at 8:47. Brian “late period heroics” Gionta and Shanny assisted. This was only the third power play goal for the Devils in this series. Both teams were pitiful on the power play and both teams were awesome on the kill. Which one has more to do with the other?
The Devils had just killed off a lengthy two man disadvantage, then they scored the go-ahead goal. Honestly, it looked like it was over, and I updated my facebook status to indicate such. Ye of little faith….
Late in the second, spilling over into the third, the Canes killed off a double minor to Timmy G for delivering a high stick to Zach Parise’s face. This was absolutely a crucial kill, as the Devils missed an opportunity to get some insurance.
As the third period slowly wore on, I became more and more tense. With each shift, with each whistle, I started to dread the onset of the offseason, but also looked forward to the purging of the playoff beard. At the 10:00 mark, I was worried. At the 15:00 mark, I was really worried. At the 18:00 mark, I started to accept defeat. I was gathering my thoughts for a Canes eulogy. I was also gathering my thoughts for a congratulatory note to the gals at IPB.
Just in the nick of time, though, my boys came through.
Just before the desperation move of lifting Cam Ward for an extra attacker, the Canes started to mount a serious threat. The boys knew that they had to give everything they had. Tim Gleason made a sensational play at the right point, diving to keep the puck in the Devils zone. He then passed to Joni Pitkänen in the right circle. Joni found his countryman and game four hero Jussi Jokinen all alone at the bottom of the right circle. These two guys have been teammates before in Finland and now in Carolina. They know each other well, and they combined to spark one of the most dramatic comebacks in team history. Jokinen from Pitkänen and Gleason at 18:40.
The crowd at the Rock was stunned while fans watching on teevee in Carolina were jubilant. There was going to be overtime, and this absolutely breathtaking series would be prolonged. Nothing could be finer. Well, nothing except…
Almost out of nowhere, in the waning seconds, the captain-in-waiting Eric Staal was all alone on the right wing and he let one rip from the top of the right circle. It may or may not have clicked off Mike Mattau’s right skate, but it found its way in the back of the net, and there again was that familiar look on the faces of the fans in the front rows. “What the eff just happened?”
Staal was credited with the series-winning goal at 19:29, while Sharpie and Timmy G were each given their second assists of the game.
Cam Ward had to make some good saves in the final seconds, then he basked in the glory of being congratulated by Martin Brodeur for the second time in his very young career.
Naturally, I love the outcome, but from a purely objective standpoint, this was a phenomenal series. One that will go down in Hurricanes history as one of the best. Perhaps it’ll go down as one of the best in NHL history. At the very least, one of the best in recent history.
Carolina will advance to face Boston in the conference semi-finals. The Bruins dominated Carolina this season, winning all four regular season matchups.
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About Red and Black Hockey
David Lee is a restaurant manager with an unused degree in political science. He can be found at Carolina Hurricanes games, Scrabble tournaments and indie-rock shows. Sometimes, all in the same day.