1. One for the Books
What a game. What a series. What a team.
Who could have drawn up a more perfect ending for such a resilient bunch? Blanked in Game 5 by a 6-0 margin, pushed to the brink of elimination. Fighting back at home to win Game 6. Coming back to Washington to fight back once more and knock out the defending Stanley Cup champions on their own ice, the first and only win for the road team in the series.
Video: CAR@WSH, Gm7: Hurricanes, Caps exchange handshakes
"Belief. We trust ourselves," Sebastian Aho said. "We knew we were going to turn this [around]. Just a great team effort."
"We battle. This is a special team. Everybody in here works for each other, and everybody respects Rod so much. We'd go through a wall for him," McGinn said. "We're jelling right now and having fun. This is a big step for us."
"I don't know what else to say about this group. I've been saying it all year. They just don't quit," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "We've got great leadership. In overtime, you saw it come through. Just really proud of this group. This is a special group, and I'm glad to be a part of it."
2. McGinn's the OT Hero
Mr. Game 7 is Mr. Game 7 for a reason. Justin Williams rises to the occasion in big moments, none bigger than double overtime in Game 7.
The Hurricanes were the better team in the period-and-a-half-plus of extra hockey that was played, and it felt as though a goal was coming. All it was going to take was a shot.
"In overtime, it looked like we were going," Brind'Amour said. "Holtby was playing great. It was one of those where you get all the action and they get down and put one in, but I think we deserved that."
At the 11-minute mark of the second overtime, the Canes were rolling around in the Capitals' zone. Jaccob Slavin kept the play alive at the point and chipped the puck into the corner, where Williams retrieved it and fired it toward the net. McGinn positioned himself to get a stick on the puck, deflecting it in past Braden Holtby.
Video: CAR@WSH, Gm7: McGinn scores in 2OT to win series
"I was just trying to get to the net and get in position to be able to bang it in," McGinn said. "Willy did a good job putting it towards the net, and it went off me and into the net."
McGinn threw his hands high in the air, jumping up and down. The Canes spilled off the bench. Petr Mrazek sprinted down the ice and slid on the ice on his belly into the celebration pile.
"Jubilation. Excitement. Relief that it was over," Williams said. "It's such an indescribable feeling when you celebrate with the guys who you worked your tail off with for months after months after months. To see that one go in and go our way was awesome."
The Hurricanes almost weren't even in a position to have a chance to win the game in overtime. With just over two minutes left in regulation, a shot from Tom Wilson leaked through Mrazek. The puck, ever so slowly sliding toward the goal line, was loose in the crease. McGinn dove headfirst to knock the puckout of harm's way and preserve the 3-3 tie.
Video: CAR@WSH, Gm7: McGinn dives to clear puck away in 3rd
"He's been great. He's a Hurricane. He does it the way we want out of our players," Brind'Amour said of McGinn. "He doesn't get credit, and nobody talks about him, but he's a glue guy. We have a lot of those on our team. This time of year, those are the guys who can really be the difference."
3. Winning the Second
The Hurricanes didn't have an ideal start to Game 7. At one point, even, Brind'Amour said in a TV interview that the team was playing like "crap." Andre Burakovsky gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead just 2:13 into the game. Tom Wilson doubled that lead about four minutes later.
The message in the intermission was to win the second period. There was still plenty of hockey left to be played.
"We're learning, right? Last time we got down 2-0, it became 6-0. We stayed with it," Williams said. "That was our message: stay with it, keep hanging around. That's what we did."
"We had one plan going into the second period. We wanted to win the period," Aho said. "We just forgot the first period and tried to win the second period."
So, that's what the Hurricanes did.
Aho got the Canes on the board about midway through the second with a shorthanded goal, as he whacked in his own rebound.
Video: CAR@WSH, Gm7: Aho sneaks wrister past Holtby for SHG
"It's 2-0 and they get a power play. If they score, it's done," Brind'Amour said. "Then we get the shorthanded goal, and then I think it just perked everybody up, like, hey, we're still in the game."
The Capitals got the next goal - Evgeny Kuznetsov scored his first of the series on a 3-on-1 rush - but another Finn helped pull the Canes back within a goal just about three minutes later.
From the point, Brett Pesce sent the puck toward the net. Aho lifted Kuznetsov's stick, allowing the puck to trickle to Teravainen, who settled it, spun and fired a quick shot past Holtby.
Video: CAR@WSH, Gm7: Teravainen pots wrister from the slot
"I think the break we got was the shorthanded goal. It was weird how it went in. It just broke the ice for us. Even though they got the third one, it was OK, we were able to score," Brind'Amour said. "Then, all of a sudden for whatever reason, it just started clicking."
4. Staal In
It didn't take the Hurricanes long into the third period to find the game-tying goal. About three minutes into the final regulation frame, Slavin sent the puck up the ice to Jordan Staal in transition, and from the right circle, Staal snapped a shot over the blocker shoulder of Holtby.
Video: CAR@WSH, Gm7: Staal pots snap shot to tie it in 3rd
"We got some huge goals by some big players. Some huge saves by Petr when we needed them. A huge goal by Jordan to start the third period," Williams said. "We didn't give up. When it was 2-0, we told ourselves we wouldn't let it snowball like we did the other games in here. We regrouped and stayed with it."
"They just kept battling back," Brind'Amour said. "Everyone contributed. The big guys stepped up when they had to."
5. Leaders Lead to Second Round
This team is defined by the leadership of its head coach and captain. There was buy-in from the team from day one, and it's led the Hurricanes to the second round of the playoffs.
"[Brind'Amour] comes in, and he's such an unbelievable motivator. After he talks in pregame, you just want to run through a wall, and you realize you've got an hour-and-a-half before the game," Williams said. "He's done everything right, lets us do our thing and led us along the way. That's the consummate leader of our team."
It's been a special season for a special team, but there's more to this story to be written.
"We became relevant again this year. This is just another step," Williams said. "It's wide open for us. It's wide open for every team. There's eight left, and we're going to keep pushing to see how good we can be."
"I don't know how far we're going to take this, but I know we're going to give it everything we can, I know that," Brind'Amour said.
And they're going to enjoy every minute of the ride, that's for sure.
"I've really been trying to tell the guys that you've got to enjoy everything we're doing. You have to take time to enjoy it because we work so hard," Brind'Amour said. "You only get so many cracks at this, so many cracks to create memories. This is one we'll take forever. These guys who played in that game tonight will remember that game forever. That's special. I'm trying to enjoy it, too."
The New York Islanders await the Hurricanes in Brooklyn for the Second Round, which begins with Game 1 on Friday.
"I know they're probably sitting there licking their chops. I know we all would be with the way this series went. Seven games, overtime, the grind that this series was, the injuries that have racked up. They've been sitting there for 10 days," Brind'Amour said. "I haven't had time to even think about it. I know they're a great team. That's why they're playing and had a pretty easy round. They know how to win, and they do it right."