Shawn P. Roarke | NHL.com Managing Editor
-- With his magical run this postseason, which continued with the winning goal Friday night in Carolina's 4-1 victory against Boston in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Jussi Jokinen
is becoming the face of the Carolina Hurricanes
The organization couldn't find a more perfect poster boy.
"You're just looking at a player with a world of confidence," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. "He's had so much adversity this year, you can't be anything but happy for him."
Especially because Jokinen is the personification of the Carolina way, tangible proof that if you work hard and you believe -- and you persevere through the hard times -- you will find success.
"For him to have stuck with it this year, for him to compete and to work and really focus on his hockey, it's a good lesson for all of us," Maurice said.
It's a lesson that Carolina has applied in this Eastern Conference Semifinals. With Friday's convincing win -- fueled by a two-goal performance from Eric Staal
and a two-point night from Jokinen -- Carolina holds a 3-games-to-1 lead and can knock the top-seeded Bruins out of the playoffs with a win in Game 5 on Sunday night in Boston.
Yet Carolina almost wasn't on the brink of one of the biggest upsets in recent memory. Just a week ago, Boston opened the best-of-7 series with a 4-1 win that showed why the Bruins were so superior during the regular season.
"We got a lesson handed to us," was Maurice's description.
But, it was an important lesson to learn -- and it has fueled a three-game winning streak that has seen Carolina outscore Boston 10-3.
"If we don't scratch and claw for every inch of ice, we are going to get beat ad get beat bad," Maurice said.
Carolina began the scratching and clawing in Game 2, a tide-turning 3-0 victory in Boston. The 'Canes clawed some more Wednesday night, winning 3-2 in overtime on a goal by Jokinen. On Friday night, they broke out of 1-1 tie by scoring three third-period goals to pull away from a seemingly broken Boston team.
"We were skating well and keeping the game simple," Jokinen said of the magic formula that allowed Carolina to take command of the game -- and maybe the series.
Jokinen's goal -- Carolina's third on the power play in the past two games after going 2-for-31 in its first eight games of the postseason -- was a perfect illustration of the work ethic that makes the 'Canes so efficient when they're firing on all cylinders.
First, the power-play unit moved the puck from behind the net to the left point and then the right point before Anton Babchuk fired a dangerous low shot that Tim Thomas
stopped but could not quite control. Rod Brind'Amour -- 38-year-old Brind'Amour, a man with countless miles on his hockey legs -- then beat the Boston defense to the loose puck and shoveled it into the slot where -- surprise, surprise -- Jokinen was loitering to ram it home for his third game-winning goal of the playoffs.
"(Brind'Amour) was right on top of me and it got bumped loose," said Thomas, who had 27 saves, but allowed 3 of 13 shots to beat him in the third period. "That's what you have to do. It's one of the things you have to do to be effective."
Jokinen had just seven goals this regular season, but he has six in the postseason -- all in a magical eight-game run that has featured three game-winners.
"It's hilarious. I mean you just hope he's there again and he was there," Carolina defenseman Dennis Seidenberg
said. "He was in the right spot, getting the rebound in. It's awesome after the season he had with being on waivers and everything. It's the best thing that could happen to him."
Except for a middling second period in which Marc Savard
scored a power-play goal to tie the game at 1-1 and set the stage for Jokinen's heroics, Carolina was in the right spot more often than not in Game 4, using its speed and willingness to win most of the battles.
The sixth-seeded Hurricanes now need just one win to advance to the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since winning the Stanley Cup in 2006. They know it won't be easy, but they now know it can be done.
"I think the challenge for us is going to be able to weather the storm we are going to face at certain points of the game in Boston," Maurice said. "We know what it is like to face an elimination game and we will expect Boston to play their best game in Game 5."
The Bruins will have to do just that to halt -- however temporarily -- the magical ride Jokinen and the Hurricanes are enjoying right now.
The Boston Bruins
were in a bad way early in the second period, being outplayed badly and losing 1-0. Then, Mark Recchi turned things around with a dominant shift on Boston's first power play of the night. He capped the shift with a bull rush to the net and a heads-up pass to Marc Savard
, who slammed the puck off Cam Ward
's leg pad and into the net for Boston's first power-play goal of the series and a 1-1 tie in Game 4.
Carolina captain Rod Brind'Amour had no points in the first 10 games of the playoffs, but his mantra that the points would come remained steadfast. Brind'Amour was rewarded for that faith by earning the primary assist on Jussi Jokinen
's game-winning goal on the power play early in the third period. Brind'Amour found a rebound and calmly fed Jokinen in front, allowing the Finn to score his third game-winner of these playoffs.
One of the reasons Boston was able to revive its game in the second period was its dominance in the faceoff circle. Through the first 10 periods of this series, the teams were virtually dead even in the circle, but in Friday's second period, Boston centermen went 17-6 on draws, led by Marc Savard
's 6-1 mark.
Carolina's first two goals Friday night came on the power play, the second-straight game in which it scored a man-advantage goal after going just 2-for-31 in the first nine games of the postseason.
North Carolina State basketball coach Sidney Lowe sounded the Hurricane siren before the start of Game 4. Former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher, an N.C. State alum, did the honors before Game 3.