With Fox Sports Carolinas replaying the 2006 Stanley Cup Final this week, we at Canes Country decided to take our own trips down memory lane.
Several of our staff writers picked their top five favorite games of all time, and gave the reasoning behind them. There’s quite a few repeats, but also some different games with personal connections. We’ll be putting out our list in two parts, one today and one next Friday.
Here’s part one:
1. Devils playoff clincher 2019 - Very little needs to be said. The reaction of the Hurricanes players when they heard the crowd roar at the scoreboard showing the Canadiens had beaten the Capitals, punching the Canes’ ticket to the playoffs for the first time since 2009, was priceless. Actually, the whole last five minutes, starting with Nino Niederreiter’s insurance goal to put the Canes up 3-1, were memorable.
An outpouring of emotion, both on the ice and in the stands. John Forslund’s letter-perfect call, which was a triumph of professionalism and emotion rolled into one. Petr Mrazek’s famous “We’re in! We’re in! Yes!” That quote summed up the night and put into words what every person in the sellout crowd felt. Other games may have been more important, a few may have been more memorable, but none was more meaningful.
2. Hurricanes vs. Capitals Game Seven 2019 - It wasn’t just the Brock McGinn overtime stunner, although that certainly helps. It was the fact that for nearly 90 minutes of game time on the road in a Game 7, the Hurricanes never led - until they did. The leaders led - Sebastian Aho stopped the Caps’ onslaught in the first period, Jordan Staal tied the game, Justin Williams set up the game-winner - and the Hurricanes continued a remarkable record of never having lost a Game 7 since the team moved to North Carolina.
3. Hurricanes vs. Devils Game Seven 2009 - The Hurricanes and Devils met in the postseason four times in the first decade of the new millennium, and after a back-and-forth series that saw the teams trade wins in the first six games, it certainly looked like the Devils would continue the pattern and move on to a matchup against the Penguins in the second round. But Jussi Jokinen had other ideas, tying the game with 1:40 to go. Overtime? “Nah,” said Eric Staal, who drove the net on a rush and scored 48 seconds later on the Canes’ next shot, snatching victory from near-certain defeat.
4. Hurricanes vs. Devils Game Six, 2001 - This was a forgettable series, one in which the Hurricanes couldn’t even muster 20 shots in five of the six games and were outshot in every game, and a 5-1 pasting in Game 6 seems an odd choice to put on a list like this.
But the Canes won two games after being down 3-0 and staring at a near-certain sweep, forcing the series back to Raleigh. It was the Canes’ first playoff series in Raleigh, and following Alexander Mogilny’s goal with five minutes left the crowd at what was then the ESA gave the home team a standing ovation, recognizing the effort they put forth to make the playoffs (clinching a spot in game 81) and never giving up in a series that most figured would be over before it began. It served as proof that, despite the loud and numerous proclamations to the contrary, hockey in North Carolina was anything but a lost cause.
5. Canes 8, Flyers 6 2005- If there was a poster child for the hair-on-fire style that defined the first post-lockout season, this game was it. The game was tied on five different occasions, and the Hurricanes didn’t hold a lead until it was 6-5 in the third period. Nineteen minor penalties were whistled. Both goalies, Antero Niittymaki and Cam Ward, posted save percentages under .830. For pure entertainment value, it’s a game that’s hard to top - and, oh yeah, the first hat trick of Eric Staal’s career was little more than a subplot.
1. Game Seven - 2009 First Round vs. New Jersey Devils- Even without Game 7, the 2009 first round series with the Devils is perhaps the most entertaining the Canes have ever played. The set contained two overtime games and two shutouts.
In game seven, things got off to a quick start. Tuomo Ruutu scored just over a minute in to give the Canes the lead, but Jamie Langebrunner tied the game only a minute and a half later. JayP andolfo gave the Devils the 1st intermission lead at 2-1. Then, in the second, “The Wizard” Ray Whitney tied the game, but the Devils retook the lead on a Brian Rolston power-play goal midway through the second period.
After the midway point of the game, Cam Ward and Marty Brodeur held fast, and it looked as though the Canes would be unable to slip another one by the Hall-of-Famer. But with 1:20 left in regulation, Jussi Jokinen beat Brodeur off a perfect feed from fellow Finn Joni Pitkanen. With the Devils players and fans still stunned, Eric Staal beat Brodeur with only 32 seconds left in regulation. The “Shock at the Rock” was complete.
2. Game Seven - 2009 Conference Semifinal vs. Boston Bruins - Entering the third period, Carolina held a 2-1 lead behind goals from Rod Brind’Amour and Sergei Samsonov. Yet, a Milan Lucic goal early in the third drew the teams level and forced overtime. With barely a minute left in the first overtime session, Scott Walker bested Tim Thomas to end a fantastic game and series.
3. Game Two - 2006 Conference Semifinal vs. New Jersey Devils - With the game tied 1-1 late in the third, overtime seemed inevitable. However, a late goal by Scott Gomez left the Canes only 21.7 seconds to equalize and force overtime.
A wild sequence followed, with Eric Staal banging home a feed from Justin Williams to draw level with only 3 seconds left. Then, three minutes into overtime, one of the most unlikely overtime heroes emerged. Niclas “The Secret Weapon” Wallin was a sturdy defenseman known for his rugged play rather than his hands. Nevertheless, Wallin found himself in the right place at the right time, and with a little help from his skate, sealed the game for the Canes.
4. Game Seven - 2019 First Round vs. Washington Capitals - The most recent game on my list, this game decided a neck-and-neck playoff series where the home team had won each of the first six contests. Carolina fell behind by two goals in the first period, but they pulled even at 3-3 after goals from Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen and Jordan Staal. After one scoreless overtime period, unlikely hero Brock McGinn tipped home the series-clinching goal from Mr. Game Seven — Justin Williams.
5. Game 5 - 2002 First Round vs. New Jersey Devils- With the series tied at two games apiece, the Canes returned to Raleigh for a critical Game 5. The Devils led 2-1 late in the third period, before a Jeff O’Neill powerplay goal sent the game to overtime. From there, things went to a whole ‘nother level. Kevin Weekes’ save on John Madden — “The Save” — set the stage for the late Josef Vasicek. The Czech Condor scored at 8:16 of the first overtime, putting Carolina up 3-2 en route to winning the series and eventually advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals.
1. (obligatory) 2006 Stanley Cup Final Game Seven - My family had only three tickets for the game and I wrote a formal petition to my parents asking them to take me instead of my younger sister. My best memory from the entire night was sitting in the parking lot for hours afterwards.
2. Game Seven of the first round against the Capitals in 2019 - Watched it on the street in Glenwood South, I ended up staying out celebrating until 2 a.m. afterwards and was late for work the next morning.
3. Game Seven of the Eastern Conference semifinal against Boston in 2009 - I vividly remember going nuts in my living room at the time.
4. Canes clinch playoff berth for the first time in a decade with an April game against the New Jersey Devils in 2019.
5. Canes finish out the second round playoff series against the New York Islanders in 2019 with a sweep on home ice.