The Carolina Hurricanes played another exceptional game 7 and sent the Beantown faithful home in anguish as they defeated the Boston Bruins, 3-2 in overtime. Boston public enemy number one, Scott Walker, banged in the game winner off of a rebound from a Ray Whitney shot with just a minute and change left in the sudden death extra period. This was a pretty even contest on most accounts, as both teams had their moments of ebb, flow, and domination throughout the affair.
The Bruins scored the first goal of the game after a questionable icing call when Byron Bitz tallied his first goal of the playoffs. The Hurricanes bench questioned the icing because Tim Thomas had made a move behind the net to play the puck. Regardless, the Hurricanes would tie things up later in the period when a Dennis Seidenberg shot bounced in off Rod Brind'Amour, who was staked out in front of goalie Tim Thomas.
Carolina would pull ahead in the second period on a beautiful teamwork play by Joni Pitkanen and Sergei Samsonov. Frank Kaberle fed the puck to Pitkanen at the red line, and the Finn skated it deep in the Bruin zone. He saw a streaking Sergei Samsonov, rifled a pass across the crease, and the former Bruin tipped the puck in the net to give the Canes a 2-1 lead. The Russian had an excellent series and has four goals in the playoffs.
The Bruins would tie things up in the third when Milan Lucic got loose in front of the net and buried a pass from Marc Savard. But neither the Bruins or the Canes could gain advantage the rest of the way as both clubs battled evenly until the end of regulation.
The overtime period went back and forth as both teams had a couple of grade A chances to score, but the respective goalies were equal to the task and kept their teams in the game before Walker scored his first career playoff goal to finish things.
Cam Ward defines clutch as he made save after save at pressure packed times. The goalie is still undefeated in game 7's, (4-0), and has yet to lose an NHL playoff series. He finished with 34 saves on 36 shots.
An emotional Scott Walker was in tears after the game. If desire was a measuring stick, he would be deserving of the game winner just because of that alone. Paul Maurice moved Walker to the first line and he played with Eric Staal and Ray Whitney for the first time this postseason. Erik Cole was on the Matt Cullen and Chad LaRose line.
There were many heroes in this game, but Joni Pitkanen would have to be near the top of the list. He was all over the ice, broke up play and play in his own end, skated and passed the puck out of his zone, and contributed with two assists and six shots on goal. The Finn led both squads with over 35 minutes of TOI and finished with a +2.
Frantisek Kaberle deserves kudos for his solid performance, considering he hadn't played in a couple of weeks.
Rod Brind'Amour left the game early because of a gash to the head, but he should be available for game 1 against the Pens. The captain scored his first goal of the playoffs in the opening period.
The Hurricanes played a tremendous "team" game. The defense was tight, the forwards were backchecking all night long, and for the most part, they played the type of game they wanted.
I'd like to take a moment to congratulate the Boston Bruins for an excellent season and give a shout out to Stanley Cup of Chowder for the excellent job they did covering the series.
Last but not least, somewhere out there a few Whalers fans must be smiling. For all the abuse they took over the years from the Bruins and their faithful, hopefully this is a sweet and not a bittersweet victory. Cheers!