For the second time in the last five years, the Carolina Hurricanes are headed to the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Canes beat the New Jersey Devils 3-2 in overtime Friday night, taking care of business at home this series to put the Devils away in five games. The overtime winner came from Jesper Fast, scoring his fifth goal of this postseason to send the PNC Arena fans home happy.
Carolina will now have to wait at least one day — and possibly more — to see who they’ll need to take down to get back to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2006, as Florida and Toronto will play game five Friday night with the Panthers up 3-1.
About last night:
Fast Times at PNC Arena
An overtime winner to clinch a series is a special moment for any player, and that moment came Friday night for Jesper Fast.
The Swedish forward camped in front of the net and tipped in a ripper from Jesperi Kotkaniemi, bringing the Canes halfway to the Cup.
The moment Raleighwood went WILD pic.twitter.com/YE2g2WDHpQ— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) May 12, 2023
For Fast, Thursday night’s heroics were just another moment of brilliance in a very strong postseason campaign he’s putting together. Through 11 games, Fast has five goals and eight points, career highs for one postseason in both statistics already.
Fast scored in games two and three of the opening-round series against the Islanders, and in games one, four and now five of the series against the Devils.
And for the Hurricanes, Fast’s contributions — put on full display Friday night in overtime — are a good representation of why the Canes have been so dangerous this postseason.
The Canes had a lot made out of the lack of depth, but the depth has been on display. Fast, and of course Martinook, have grinded things out for this Canes team, which is just so hard to beat no matter which line is on the ice.
Slavin, Burns doing what they do
One of the main storylines of the regular season for the Hurricanes was just how productive their blue line was.
All season long the Canes got offensive production out of the defensemen, and that was on full display Thursday night in the series-clinching victory.
The Canes’ first goal came courtesy of Jaccob Slavin, his second of the postseason, while a game-tying second goal for the Canes came from Brent Burns late in the second period. Those two did what the Carolina defensemen have done all season long, in a big game that the Hurricanes really wanted to win at home after clinching the first series on the road.
And again, it’s just another piece of what has made this Canes’ team so dangerous. Without Andrei Svechnikov and Teuvo Teravainen — and even bigger picture without Max Pacioretty, who was brought into be the heavy dose goal scorer — the Hurricanes have still found a way to dominate hockey games.
It’s been the defensemen continuing to do their part, and then some. It’s been guys like Fast and Martinook and Seth Jarvis and Paul Stastny stepping up in big, big ways.
It’s been a team effort that has gotten the Canes eight of the necessary 16 wins this postseason en route to the ultimate goal.
- I’ll be the first to admit it — I didn’t have the highest of expectations coming into this postseason for the Canes, especially compared to my confidence in the group in years past. I picked the Canes to lose this series in our Pick ‘Em contest even after the first round, and had picked the Canes to lose in the second round before the postseason began. But man, for all of the reasons above, this Carolina group looks completely capable of winning the Cup. And it’s been fun to watch, and I’m quite glad I was wrong (which, I often am) about the team’s chances.
- This is a hilarious stat, regardless of who it is:
Erik Haula becomes the 1st player in Stanley Cup playoff history to be eliminated by the same opponent in 3 consecutive postseasons while playing for 3 different teams.— Chris Jastrzembski (@Chris_Jast) May 12, 2023
- Frederik Andersen was, once again, impressive. An awful game three performance was clearly shaken off quickly by the Great Dane, who has put together back-to-back great performances to put this series to bed. That’s what you love to see out of a goalie in the playoffs.