The Carolina Hurricanes stole their first-round series from the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday with one of the greatest last-minute comebacks in NHL history.
Jussi Jokinen and Eric Staal scored in a 48-second span late in the third period as the Hurricanes stunned the Devils, 4-3, in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference series at Newark, N.J.
“This is as sweet as it comes,” said goaltender Cam Ward, who kept the Hurricanes in the game in the final 25 minutes with at least half a dozen outstanding saves with his team trailing, 3-2. “What a finish. It’s hard to believe right now just because we were down 3-2 with only two minutes to go. How quickly things can change. That’s why you never give up and play until the final buzzer.”
It was the second shocking loss for the Devils in the series. They lost Game 4 on a goal by Jokinen with 0.2 seconds to play.
This time they gave away the series in the final 1:20.
“They scored two goals in the final two minutes of a hockey game to win it,” Devils center John Madden said. “I will never forget it.”
Jokinen tied it after taking a great cross-ice setup by Joni Pitkanen. Staal then buried the Devils with a shot from the middle of the right circle after a rush up the ice with 31.7 seconds to play.
“It was pretty quiet when Jussi scored,” Staal said. “We were on the bench and we were obviously the only ones cheering and pretty excited. We went over the boards after that goal and we were like, ‘Why not get another one?’ It happened and we’ll take the win.”
Carolina next plays the top-seeded Bruins in a series that starts on Friday in Boston.
Tuomo Ruutu and Ray Whitney also scored for Carolina and Ward was magnificent, making 32 saves.
Brian Rolston, Jay Pandolfo and Jamie Langenbrunner scored for New Jersey, while Martin Brodeur made 27 saves.
It was the Devils’ second straight first-round exit, and this one had to be tougher than last year’s embarrassing loss in five games to the Rangers.
“I really don’t know what to say. I am shocked, stunned,” Devils Coach Brent Sutter said.
Washington 2, New York Rangers 1 -- Thanks to sage old Sergei Fedorov and a monumental comeback, the Capitals are headed to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in 11 years.
Fedorov, 39, beat Henrik Lundqvist with 4:59 left in the third period, and the Capitals won at home to become the 21st NHL team to win a series after trailing, 3-1.
It’s also the franchise’s first series victory since the 1997-98 season, when Washington made it all the way to the Stanley Cup finals.
The Capitals will play Pittsburgh in the next round.