In a game with one of the craziest endings that you will see, the Carolina Hurricanes edged the Toronto Maple Leafs in overtime on Tuesday night by a score of 3-2. The Canes scored 2 goals in the final 85 seconds of regulation to tie the game and then scored again in OT to eventually steal a seemingly sure victory away from the Leafs.
Carolina started the game full of pop as they were able to put almost constant pressure on Toronto goalie Vesa Toskala. The Leafs netminder was equal to the task though and repeatedly shut down the very potent Hurricanes attack. Later in the 1st period, the visiting Toronto team found their legs and started to put pressure on Hurricanes goalie, John Grahame. Grahame stood his ground for the most part, but left one rebound too many for Boyd Devereaux as the Leafs forward put back a Tomas Kaberle shot to make it 1-0, Leafs.
After both teams had sauntered through the majority of a somewhat slow 2nd period, Tomas Kaberle again flexed his muscles just before the 2nd intermission. He checked Trevor Letowski behind the Canes net, stole the puck from him, then shoved the puck past Grahame from the side of the net on a great individual play making it 2-0, Leafs.
The 3rd period started off slowly, but the Hurricanes played with more urgency as the end of the game drew near. They had 2 powerplays in which to do some damage, but the Leafs penalty kill had the answer each time. Finally with just 4 minutes to go, Craig Adams took a penalty for high sticking, and many of the Hurricanes faithful started to leave the arena in disgust. But after the Canes killed that penalty, the "magic" started.
Cory Stillman ruined the shutout bid for Toskala at the 18:35 mark when he put in a rebound from a Frantisek Kaberle shot making it 2-1, Leafs. At this point, the Hurricanes had turned up the intensity big time and they were putting on constant pressure in the Toronto zone. With about a minute left, coach Peter Laviolette pulled John Grahame for the extra attacker and the Canes went to work once again. The only problem for Carolina was that the Leafs were able to bust the puck out of their zone.
Here's where things got a bit strange. Alexei Ponikarovsky found the puck at center ice and started skating toward the Hurricanes zone with Leafs at either side of him. He inexplicably held the puck instead of passing it or shooting it into the empty net, and Hurricanes hero Cory Stillman swept in and stole it from him. Stillman found Erik Cole streaking back the other way and Cole carried the puck back into the Leaf's zone. He then made a perfect pass across the ice to an open Ray Whitney who wound up to launch a one-timer. The puck magically found it's way into the back of the net at the 19:33 mark, making the score 2-2 and eventually sending the game into overtime.
Obviously the crowd was really jacked up at this point and the Hurricanes had the ice tilted in their favor throughout most of the extra period. They were able to draw 2 penalties and had an unusual 5 on 3 advantage for about a minute. Give the Leafs credit though, they were able to kill the 5 on 3. But with just 33 clicks left in OT, Eric Staal fired a shot which was tipped in by Scott Walker, and that was your game winner!
I think that the Leafs were still in shock as they left the ice. In the meantime, the Canes heartily congratulated goalie John Grahame who played a fine game and was able to keep the score close during the times in the game when Carolina's offense fell dormant. Carolina played without team Captain Rod Brind'Amour who was ill with the flu. David Tanabe left the game early with a possible concussion. Andrew Ladd also missed the game because of the flu and Mike Commodore was missing in action because of his broken finger.
The Hurricanes will fly to Florida this afternoon for games against the Panthers on Thursday night and the Lightning Saturday night. We'll have another update here after lunch.