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Conference Final

Hurricanes playing Bruins in conference final conjuring memories of 2009

Walker overtime goal in Game 7 was difference in series for Carolina 10 years ago

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

BOSTON -- The memories came flooding back to Scott Walker, along with phone calls and texts from former teammates, friends and media members, when the Eastern Conference Final matchup between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Boston Bruins was set Monday.

Walker, now director of player development with the Vancouver Canucks, was one of the protagonists for the Hurricanes the last time they faced the Bruins in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, scoring an overtime goal in Game 7 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals.

It was the only playoff goal Walker scored in his 15-season NHL career.

 

[RELATED: Complete Bruins vs. Hurricanes series coverage]

 

"Not a bad one," Walker said. "It was awesome. Hockey is a special place and great people and special people and you get to bounce back to memories of 2009. Even though you don't really live in the past, it's fun to reminisce."

Those who played for the Hurricanes in 2009 have been doing a lot of reminiscing during the current Hurricanes' run to the conference final because it has had a familiar feel to it. Carolina goes into Game 2 at TD Garden on Sunday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS) trailing 1-0 in the best-of-7 series after a 5-2 loss in Game 1 on Thursday. It's the same spot the 2009 Hurricanes were in after one game against the Bruins.

But the coincidences go beyond the Hurricanes playing Boston again. Two of them came in their 4-3 double-overtime win against the Washington Capitals in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference First Round.

The first was center Jordan Staal's tying goal 2:56 into the third period, which was similar to the winning goal his older brother Eric, now with the Minnesota Wild, scored with 32 seconds remaining in a 4-3 win in Game 7 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the New Jersey Devils. Each came on a right-wing rush and a wrist shot from near the face-off dot that beat the goalie to the far side, past his blocker.

"I knew it right away actually," Jordan Staal said. "I think I saw it on the (video scoreboard) right after I scored and I'm like, 'I remember that goal.' It looked a lot like [Eric's] goal against Jersey. It was pretty cool."

Video: CAR@NYI, Gm1: Staal fires home the overtime winner

The other coincidence in that game came on forward Brock McGinn's winning goal 11:05 into the second overtime. Forward  Justin Williams threw the puck in front from the right corner and McGinn batted it in out of mid-air.

It was similar to how Walker batted in the rebound of Ray Whitney's shot from the right circle 18:46 into overtime in Game 7 against Boston in 2009.

"At that point in the playoffs it's just shoot everything on net," Whitney said. "So I just took kind of a half-slapper at the net and [Bruins goalie] Tim Thomas bounced it off this blocker. Scott was going to the net like he always does and banged it in.

"The best part about that is Scotty was going through a tough time with his wife at the time fighting a cancer thing, so there wasn't a better guy to get it."

Walker admits to being distracted during that game because his wife, Julie, had been diagnosed with cervical cancer earlier in the series and had to undergo a series of surgeries. Walker considered leaving the Hurricanes to be with Julie, who now is healthy, but she convinced him to continue playing.

His memory of his overtime goal mostly is from reading about it and seeing the video afterward.

"I don't even remember it," he said. "You get so emotional you actually black out, and then before you know it you're on the plane going home. It's surreal. You don't even remember breathing."

Video: Moment 12: Scott Walker's Game 7 OT Winner

The other connection for Walker to McGinn's double-overtime goal is that he coached McGinn with Guelph in the Ontario Hockey League for four seasons, including when it won the OHL championship in 2013-14. Walker said he received texts after McGinn scored from former Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford (now with the Pittsburgh Penguins) and Eric Staal.

But Walker decided not to contact McGinn, figuring he was inundated with other calls and texts and busy with the playoffs.

"He's an amazing kid, he's an amazing player," Walker said. "Can't be more proud for a kid like that to carry on the Guelph Storm name. And if anybody says anything about Scott Walker and Brock McGinn, how lucky am I?"

The Hurricanes' 2009 playoffs ended with a four-game sweep against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the conference final. It took them 10 years to get back to the playoffs after that, but now they are reviving memories of when they reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2002, won the Stanley Cup in 2006 and made that run to the conference final in 2009.

Former Hurricanes forward Erik Cole can feel it in the electricity inside and outside PNC Arena.

"Seeing the building being back to the way it was in the really fun times that I had here is great to see," said Cole, who settled in Raleigh after retiring in 2015. "It didn't just magically start when the playoffs started. Probably like the last month of the regular season, when [college] basketball is winding down and things, the fans start to come out a little bit more, and with the fact the team was vying for a playoff position it was an exciting time for everybody."

The common denominator is Rod Brind'Amour, who was Carolina's captain in 2009 and now is in his first season as coach. These Hurricanes are following their own playoff path after eliminating the Capitals in the first round and sweeping the New York Islanders in the second round. But Brind'Amour understands the 2009 comparisons.

"That was a special group, a very special group that is different from this group totally," Brind'Amour said. "Totally different, but a lot of similarities. There was a lot of great moments in that playoff run, for sure, and we're creating some here."

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