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Carolina turns hard work into playoff success

Saturday, 05.09.2009 / 12:26 AM / Conference Semifinals: Boston vs. Carolina

By John Manasso - NHL.com Correspondent

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Carolina coach Paul Maurice talks a lot about hard work and how his team can't compete without it.

The sixth-seeded Hurricanes will have to keep their work rate up on Sunday night if they want to close out what would be a shocking five-game series victory over Boston, the Eastern Conference's top seed.

"I think the challenge for us is going to be to be able to weather the storm that we’re going to face in Boston at different points in the game," Maurice said after his team’s 4-1 win on Friday in Game 4. "I know we’ll look at this game and say it was 4-1, but I think you were all as nervous as I was -- although you’re not cheering for us, but some of you are. Those games are so tight. Two posts in the first period."

Boston's Phil Kessel hit the post from 30 feet just 2:46 into the game. Less than eight minutes later, Zdeno Chara took another shot that might have hit off a player in front of the net before it clanged off the pipe.

In between, Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward stopped P.J. Axelsson on a shorthanded breakaway. Carolina turned the ensuing rush into its first goal.

"We had some really good chances," Chara said. "P.J. had a breakaway. We hit two posts. It could have been a different result after the first 20 minutes."

Maurice acknowledged that the game could have been entirely different if those two shots had gone an inch or two in the other direction.

"You walk out that bench down 2-1 or 2-0 because you don't score and now you're on your heels," he said. "That’s how these things change, so we're going in there (on Sunday) with the same attitude we’ve had in each game. If we don’t absolutely scratch and claw for every bit of ice, we’re going to get beat and maybe get beat bad."

Maurice pointed to what happened to his team when it didn’t work hard in Game 1 of the first round, when New Jersey beat the Hurricanes 4-1. It served as a wake-up call and after that, his team’s losses in that series only came by one goal. The 'Canes came up with another klunker in a 4-1 loss to the Bruins in Game 1 of this series, but have won the next three.

A lot has gone the Hurricanes’ way in those three games. Jussi Jokinen has come out of nowhere to become the hero of these playoffs for Carolina -- he got the overtime winner in Game 3, the game-winner on Friday and now has six goals in eight games.

Carolina also might have gotten some breaks in the penalty department. Jokinen's game-winner early in the third period came on a power play after Chara was whistled for hooking Eric Staal on a fairly benign play.

Perhaps that was one of the moments that Boston coach Claude Julien was thinking about when he said of the officials, "There were certain things that were let go and certain things they were hard on us."

Psychologically, the pressure will be on Boston in Game 5. Maurice appeared to try and ratchet that up a bit on the Bruins after Friday's game. But he knows his team is battle-tested from rallying to win the final two games of its first-round series in miraculous fashion.

"We come in as the underdog and rightfully so," he said. "We're going to play the best team in our conference. At home. And we know what it’s like to feel like to be playing in that elimination game. And we found a way to play our best and we will go in there expecting to play our best."





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I came into a team that had 65 points, that was at the bottom of the basement, a team that everybody wrote off as never going to be good. My goal is to go from the very bottom to the very top.

— Forward Brandon Dubinsky on signing a six-year contract extension with the Columbus Blue Jackets