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LaRose at his best when stakes are high

by Shawn P. Roarke
BOSTON -- In the past 10 days, the Carolina Hurricanes have faced four must-win games. In those four contests, Chad LaRose has responded with a goal and five assists.

After Eric Staal, who already has impeccable big-game credentials from carrying Carolina to a championship three years ago, LaRose is emerging as the Hurricanes' go-to guy in the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Carolina had to win three of the final four games against New Jersey in a wild seven-game affair in the first round. LaRose had a goal in a Game 4 win and then added back-to-back, two-assist efforts in Games 6 and 7.

His latest heroics came Sunday night as the Hurricanes took the TD Banknorth Garden ice, facing a 1-0 series deficit against a Boston squad that had yet to lose in the playoffs. Lose Game 2 and it would be a long road back for Carolina.

But LaRose made sure a loss wasn't in the cards.

He was most visible in the second period, when his interception of a point-to-point pass on the penalty kill led to Matt Cullen's shorthanded goal, one that took the air out of the Garden and gave Carolina a 2-0 lead it never relinquished in taking a series-changing 3-0 victory.

But LaRose set the tone far earlier, as he was a presence from the first time he took the ice Sunday night. There was no pouting that he had been taken off the top line, replaced by Erik Cole. There was only constant energy.

"That's somebody on our team to watch, is Chad," said defenseman Joe Corvo, who scored Carolina's first goal. "If he's moving his feet in the game to start with, everybody sees that and that kind of sparks us to see that he is in the game and he is ready to go and we have to be the same way." 

All of LaRose's effort paid off in the second period while Carolina was killing a penalty to defenseman Joni Pitkanen.

Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara was trying to make a pass to partner Dennis Wideman along the blue line, but LaRose was lurking and got his stick on the puck to knock it out of the zone. Summoning extra energy, LaRose was then the first one to the puck that had squirted inside the Boston blue line.

His shot hit the side of the net, but LaRose did not give up on the play. Instead, he fought off the attempts of both Chara and Wideman to get the puck back and shoveled it out to Cullen for the backbreaking goal.

"Cullen was just screaming, which was good because I didn't know he was there until he yelled," LaRose said.

LaRose almost added a goal to his Game 2 resume, but his shot past Thomas with three seconds left in the second period hit the crossbar and bounded straight down. Referee Dan O'Halloran ruled it no goal, a decision that was upheld after a lengthy video review.

Goal or not, Paul Maurice could not say enough about LaRose after the game. 

"He brings a lot of jump and energy," the coach said. "When he gets on that puck, he won’t come off it.  It’s important to have enough of those guys on your team, because when he’s doing that on the ice, it just fires your bench up. 

"I love to see that effort and that work ethic, and I’m glad that in the playoffs that he’s getting some numbers and some points because he’s been a very good player for our team."

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