Erik Cole of the Carolina Hurricanes and Maxim Afinogenov of the Atlanta Thrashers taking their turns at playing the hero.The number of final-minute, game-tying goals during the first quarter of the season reached 15 on Thursday, with
Cole's goal, at 19:57 of the third in a 6-5 shootout win against Toronto, and Afinogenov's goal, at 19:18 of the third period in a 4-3 shootout loss to Boston, thrilled the hometown fans in each city. Carolina fans were extra pleased because the Hurricanes went on to win the game. In Atlanta, Afinogenov gave the Thrashers a crucial point with his goal.
Coming with a little more than two seconds remaining, Cole's goal was the fifth game-tying goal to come with fewer than three seconds remaining in regulation. Rene Bourque of the Calgary Flames scored at 19:58 of the third in a 4-3 shootout win at Edmonton on Oct. 8, while Chris Phillips of the Ottawa Senators scored at 19:58 of the third in a 6-5 overtime loss to Nashville on Oct. 22, Travis Zajac of the New Jersey Devils scored at 19:59 of the third in a 4-3 shootout win against Tampa Bay on Oct. 8, and Bill Guerin of the Pittsburgh Penguins scored at 19:59 of the third against Boston on Nov. 14.
These two goals are just the most recent reminders that no lead was safe in the season's first quarter. The Hurricanes' shootout victory against Toronto on Thursday night marked the fifth time this season that a team won a game it had trailed by three or more goals. It was the 36th comeback resulting a win this season from a two-goal deficit.
The most dramatic comeback occurred Oct. 12, when the Chicago Blackhawks allowed five goals in a span of 5:29 during the first period against Calgary but roared back with six unanswered goals for a miraculous 6-5 victory. It was the biggest comeback in Chicago history and tied the record for the biggest deficit overcome in NHL history.