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Systems Analyst Classics: Just in the Nic of Time

Game 2 of the 2006 Eastern Conference Semifinals featured a chaotic final minute, and another OT winner from Niclas Wallin.

New Jersey Devils v Carolina Hurricanes Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

After winning the opening game of the series against the red hot New Jersey Devils, who had won 15 straight coming into Game 1, the Carolina Hurricanes took the ice in Game 2 looking to take a two games to none lead in the 2006 Eastern Conference Semifinals.

After 59 minutes of tight hockey, the game was tied at one and appeared destined for overtime.

Carolina had possession in the offensive zone in the form of captain Rod Brind’Amour with just 30 seconds to play. As the puck works up the boards, Devils winger Jamie Langenbrunner takes out Justin Williams’ feet and gains control of the puck, breaking the Devils out of the zone. In the neutral zone, Langenbrunner leaves it for Scott Gomez who carries across the offensive blue line and leaves it for Zach Parise. Parise steps into a one-timer and the puck redirects past Cam Ward, giving New Jersey a 2-1 lead with just 20 seconds to play.

After dropping the puck to Parise, Gomez continues to drive to the net. As seen in the clip below, Gomez and Mike Commodore tie up sticks and the puck ricochets off of both of their sticks, leaving Ward helpless.

Left with just 20 seconds to find an equalizer, Carolina head coach Peter Laviolette pulled Ward immediately and sent six forwards on the ice. The Hurricanes actually lost the faceoff, but Devils center John Madden beat Brind’Amour so clean on the draw that the puck comes all the way back into the New Jersey end, allowing the Hurricanes to go to work.

As a loose puck bounces towards the boards with 10 seconds to play in the clip below, Eric Staal outmuscles Brian Gionta and sends the puck back into the corner to Williams. Williams initially tries to find Cory Stillman in the slot for a one-timer, but the Devils are in good position and the puck heads back into the corner. With time dwindling Williams just throws a backhand towards the crease and hopes for the best.

The puck finds Eric Staal in front and he redirects it through Martin Brodeur to tie the game.

Madden, Gionta and Jay Pandolfo are all focused on denying the pass to Stillman in the slot. That leaves defensman Brad Lukowich to cover both Staal and Brind’Amour in front. As such, Staal is able to gain inside position on Lukowich and get his stick on the puck without much resistance.

Staal’s goal would send the game to overtime and just minutes in the teams would skate four on four after matching minor penalties to Richard Matvichuk and Justin Williams.

Late in the four on four, Stillman hounds a New Jersey defensman attempting to exit the zone. Careful not to pick up a hooking minor, Stillman forces a turnover to Brind’Amour who protects the puck and finds Niclas Wallin streaking down the far wing.

Just before Stillman and Brind’Amour steal the puck, Carolina gets away with a fairly blatant too many men on the ice violation. Doug Weight joins Stillman, Brind’Amour, Wallin and Glen Wesley on the ice for a few seconds, as seen in the still image below.

Weight jumps back onto the bench after Brind’Amour steals the puck. The officials miss it and Wallin receives the Brind’Amour pass and charges wide. He gains a step on New Jersey defensman Paul Martin who has to dive in a recovery attempt.

Martin’s dive is nearly perfect, knocking the puck off of Wallin’s blade without tripping the Swedish defensman and taking a penalty. But after dislodging the puck, Martin’s stick pulls the puck back off of Wallin’s left skate and the puck once again beats Brodeur through the five hole.

It was the third playoff overtime winner of Wallin’s career and gave Carolina a 2-0 series lead. The Canes would go on to win game three and eventually close the series out in five games to advance to the Eastern Conference Final.