Jussi Jokinen scored the game winning goal with just 0.2 seconds on the clock as the Carolina Hurricanes held on to defeat the New Jersey Devils last night, 4-3. The victory tied the series up 2-2 as the teams meet again in Jersey on Thursday night to begin a brand new best of three, mini-series.
One could not ask for more drama as the refs had to check the clock on the replay to see if the puck crossed the goal line before time expired, but with the crowd shouting "goal..goal", the ref signaled that it counted and the RBC faithful went home happy.
One person who was not very happy was Martin Brodeur. The goalie argued with the refs after the game and threw his stick and smashed it in disgust as he left the ice. Replays show that he was bumped outside the crease before the goal, but the refs determined that it did not affect the play because he had a chance to get back into position. (more about this in the game notes).
The Hurricanes came out of the gate with vigor and played their best hockey of the series in the first 39 minutes. They stormed to a 3-0 lead and it could have easily been worse than that for the Devils.
Eric Staal started off the barrage about seven minutes into the game when he put back a loose puck in the crease off of a shot by Tuomo Ruutu. Dennis Seidenberg started the play as he skated into the zone, dropped the puck to Ruutu, and then went to the front of the net for a tip in or a screen.
Seidenberg had an excellent all around game after missing two games as a healthy scratch. The defenseman finished with eight hits, five blocked shots, and two assists for his efforts. Hopefully, the coaching staff took note.
Just 63 seconds later, Ryan Bayda got a perfect pass from Scott Walker and zipped his shot past Brodeur, and it seemed like the Canes would stampede the Devils off the ice. The "fourth" line of Walker, Jokinen, and Bayda were very active most of the night and they were one of the strongest and most consistent offensive lines for Carolina.
The tide would turn late in the second period though as Anton Babchuk went in the offensive zone to scramble for a loose puck. None of the forwards covered for him and Brian Gionta was left alone streaking toward the Hurricanes goal. He easily put the puck past Cam Ward with just 28 seconds left, making the score 3-1.
Usually those types of goals late in a period will wake up a team and that's exactly what happened to the Devils. They came out in the third with new jump and scored two more goals to tie the game up. Both were on rebounds from in close, one by Brendan Shanahan and the other by David Clarkson.
Paul Maurice said after the game that the bench actually got better when the score was tied, more so than when it was 3-2. The team played like it too, as they finally started to take back control of the game later in the third.
With time winding down and the crowd yelling "shooooot", Joni Pitkanen made a nice play to keep the puck in the zone, then passed it over to an open Seidenberg, who rifled it at the net. The puck hit Jussi Jokinen in the skate and ended up in the goal with everyone wondering if the score would count, including the players.
After the game, Jokinen said that he was "very nervous" about it because he lost track of the time when he skated behind the net with about 10 seconds left. He asked the other players on the bench, and they did not know either. But "all's well that end's well" for the Canes and they will travel back to New Jersey with the series tied up once again.
This was a hard-hitting affair for the Canes as they out-hit the Devils 40-25. Dennis Seidenberg and Tim Gleason led the team with eight each and Tuomo Ruutu had seven. There is hitting, and then there is HITTING, and Ruutu really cleaned out a couple of the Devils at full speed with his expertise.
Ryan Bayda now has two goals in the playoffs, after being healthy scratched in game one. Chad LaRose also has two. They are tied with Eric Staal as the team's leaders in that department.
The powerplay looked much better tonight, even if it did not score. Matt Cullen was back on point and the movement was much better overall than previous games. It seemed like the Hurricanes got into an offensive groove while on the opening powerplay and Staal scored shortly afterwards.
Not only did the Canes take the lead in regulation for the first time this game, they also out-shot the Devils for the first time in a game this series. At one time it was 14-3 and at the end of the second period it was 37-17. The final tally was Canes 46- Devils 29.
Maurice mixed up the pairings in the back end from time to time. Nic Wallin was matched with Anton Babchuk and Joni Pitkanen was with Dennis Seidenberg upon occasion. Most notably, Tim Gleason and Joe Corvo stayed together and were on the ice with the Devils top line. They had an excellent night and kept Zach Parise off the scoresheet for the first time this series.
Eric Staal led all Canes with seven shots on goal. Joe Corvo had six while Anton Babchuk managed five.
Joni Pitkanen had a team high +3 to go along with two assists.
Some Jersey fans seem upset about the non-call with Brodeur at the end, but the Devils have had their fair share of breaks in this series and have had more powerplay chances than the Hurricanes have. The non-calls go both ways as Eric Staal was hauled down on a play near the front of the net late in the game with no call either.
If anything, Brodeur should be fined or suspended for throwing his stick like he did after the end of the game. Nik Antropov was suspended for three games because of a similar incident earlier this season. (although it was deemed that he threw his stick in the ref's direction).
Also, the league should look at that elbow cheap shot that Dainius Zubrus knocked down Tuomo Ruutu with in the first period. Aren't they supposed to be cracking down on hits to the head? Karma is a beautiful thing though as Zubrus got knocked down hard at least twice, once on a hip check by Gleason and another time by Ruutu, who evened the score on a clean, tough hit later in the game.
Post game videos:
Dennis Seidenberg says the crowd helped out after the score was tied 3-3 and the team was a bit down.
Jussi Jokinen says that he was not sure of the time near the end.
Brent Sutter is happy to go back home with a split.
Paul Maurice was pleased with the effort.