NEWARK, N.J. - The Carolina Hurricanes stole their thrilling first-round series from the New Jersey Devils in the final 80 seconds.
Jussi Jokinen and Eric Staal scored in a 48-second span late in the third period and the Hurricanes stunned the Devils 4-3 in Game 7 of their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series Tuesday night. It was the second shocking loss for the Devils in the series. They lost Game 4 on a goal by Jokinen with 0.2 seconds to play.
This time they gave away the series in the final 1:20.
Jokinen tied the game after taking a great cross-ice setup by Joni Pitkanen. Staal then buried the Devils with a shot from the middle of the right circle with 31.7 seconds to play.
Carolina next plays top-seeded Boston.
Tuomo Ruutu and Ray Whitney also scored for Carolina and Cam Ward was magnificent, making 32 saves.
Brian Rolston, Jay Pandolfo and Jamie Langenbrunner connected for New Jersey, while Martin Brodeur made 27 saves in a game that will be remembered as much for Carolina's comeback as the Devils' choke.
For the Devils, it was their second straight first-round exit, and this one had to be tougher than last year's embarrassing loss in five games to the Rangers.
New Jersey was 1:20 away from advancing when its world was shattered.
Defenceman Tim Gleason dived to keep in a puck at the point and slid it across to Pitkanen. He skated down the boards, faked a shot and found Jokinen low in the right circle for a shot that went between Brodeur's legs as he slid across to attempt the save.
Staal won the game with a blast from the same circle that silenced the crowd of 17,625.
At the end, the Hurricanes jumped into one another's arms while the Devils stood in their end of the ice in disbelief.
Until the late rally, Rolston's second-period, power-play blast was the difference. It came after a giveaway by Carolina's Patrick Eaves in the Devils' zone.
Brodeur then stood tall and made three saves on a two-man Carolina power-play advantage. All seemed set for New Jersey to advance - until the late collapse.
Whitney had tied the game 2-2 earlier in the period on a fluky goal. Staal made a pass from behind the net that Whitney took a swing at and missed. The puck hit his skate and went in the net.
Ruutu quieted the white-towel-waving Devils crowd - at least for a minute or so - when he fired a shot from the right circle and beat Brodeur just 62 seconds after the opening faceoff.
Langenbrunner got the fans going again a little more than a minute later. Zach Parise skated around the net and sent a cross-ice pass to the captain for a slam-dunk from the side of the net.
Linemates Brendan Shanahan and John Madden made excellent plays to set up Pandolfo's go-ahead goal. Shanahan took a hit by defenceman Dennis Seidenberg at the blue line while making the pass to set up Madden and Pandolfo on a 2-on-1. Madden centred the puck from the left circle and Pandolfo redirected it past Ward.
Notes: The Devils scratched D Bryce Salvador for the third straight game with a knee injury. ... Carolina has beaten New Jersey in three of four playoff series, including the last three.