RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -That the Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils are headed to a decisive Game 7 is no surprise - not after those teams have produced the tightest first-round series of the playoffs.
The real stunner is how it got to this point: The Devils were blown out 4-0 on Sunday night by a Carolina team that entered Game 6 on the verge of elimination - yet never seemed more comfortable.
"I guess when you have nothing really to lose, other than being gone, you can play a little bit more relaxed," forward Ray Whitney said.
There was no shortage of stars in this one for the Hurricanes.
Eric Staal scored two goals less than 3 minutes apart and added an assist. Cam Ward made 28 saves in his third career playoff shutout. Whitney finished with a goal and three assists, and his four points were more than any of his teammates had during Games 1-5 combined.
Jussi Jokinen scored Carolina's first power-play goal since Game 2, and Chad LaRose had two assists.
Carolina outshot New Jersey 37-28 while its reconfigured top line of Staal, Whitney and LaRose produced the first three goals.
The result: The most lopsided final score of the best-of-seven series.
"The difference in tonight was, a team that played like there was no tomorrow and the other team played like there was," Devils coach Brent Sutter said. "When that happens, usually the team that plays like there is another tomorrow will end up on the wrong side."
The series is even at three games apiece, with the winner-take-all Game 7 set for Tuesday night in New Jersey.
"This will mean nothing unless we do the job Tuesday, so we need to be ready," Staal said.
Ward finished with his first shutout in the postseason since beating Edmonton 5-0 in Game 2 of the 2006 Stanley Cup finals. He went on to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as a rookie that year, and has been the Hurricanes' most consistent performer during these playoffs.
But through most of this series, the sport's winningest goaltender - Martin Brodeur - has been his equal. Not this time.
This one probably would have been even more one-sided had the Devils not had Brodeur. Coming off his record-tying 23rd career playoff shutout, a 1-0 victory three nights earlier in Newark, he was under siege all night and finished with 33 saves.
"The way we played, we didn't give ourselves a good chance to win this hockey game," Brodeur said.
Not even the return of captain Jamie Langenbrunner, who missed three games with a lower body injury, could save New Jersey from its worst performance of an otherwise evenly matched series. The previous four games were decided by one goal, with two going to overtime and another 0.2 of a second shy from making it three straight before Jokinen's buzzer-beating deflection ended Game 4.
"We knew it wasn't going to be easy," Langenbrunner said.
At New York, Tom Poti had a goal and two assists and Washington forced a Game 7 against the Rangers, who played without suspended coach John Tortorella.
Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist didn't make it to the third period for the second straight game, and Poti torched his former team as the Capitals tied the first-round playoff series and set up a decisive Game 7 on Tuesday night in Washington.
The Capitals had trailed the series 3-1 before a pair of routs.
Tortorella served a one-game suspension following a confrontation with a fan Friday during New York's 4-0 loss in Game 5 that sent the series back to Madison Square Garden. Tortorella squirted water into the crowd and threw a water bottle over the glass and into the stands.