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Taking care of business at home key in first round

by John Kreiser / NHL.com
 
The eight teams that won their first-round series didn't all have home-ice advantage, but they generally took advantage of their home games.

Of the 44 games played in the opening round, just 24 (54.5 percent) were won by the home team, down from the 55.9 winning percentage home teams posted during the regular season  But the eight teams that moved into the second round were dynamite at home, going a combined 17-5 (72.7 percent) in their home games. Four teams (Boston, Detroit, Vancouver and Chicago) won all three of their games at home, and only the Washington Capitals (2-2) failed to post a winning record. Washington became the 17th team to win a series after dropping the first two games at home, though the Caps did win Games 5 and 7 at the Verizon Center.

In contrast, only one of the eight first-round losers (Calgary) had a winning record at home -- the Flames won two of three games, though they were beaten 4-1 in the deciding sixth game at the Pengrowth Saddledome. Overall, the eight losing teams went just 7-15 at home.

Welcome to the club
-- By rallying to beat the Rangers in the opening round, the Capitals joined six other teams that have twice overcome 3-1 deficits to win a series. The all-time leader is Vancouver, with three. The Rangers blew a 3-1 series lead for the first time in their history; the Caps and Phoenix Coyotes/Winnipeg Jets have the most blown leads, three.

The Caps also became the 17th franchise to win a series after losing the first two games at home. It's been done 38 times in all; Montreal and Detroit are tied for the lead with five times each. The Rangers lost for only the second time when leading a series 2-0; the other instance came in 1968. Detroit and Boston have the most -- losing six times after leading 2-0.

Never too late -- There's a first time for everything, and Carolina's Eric Staal became the first player in NHL history to get the winning goal in a Game 7 in the final minute of regulation play. Staal scored with 31.7 seconds remaining on Tuesday to give the Carolina Hurricanes a 4-3 win against the New Jersey Devils. The mark had belonged to Al MacAdam of the Minnesota North Stars, who got the winner in Game 7 of the 1980 Quarterfinals against Montreal with 1:26 left in regulation.

Staal wouldn't have gotten the chance to be the hero without Jussi Jokinen, who tied the game at 3-3 by scoring with 1:20 remaining. That marked the third time the Hurricanes have won a playoff game against Martin Brodeur and the Devils in which they trailed in the final two minutes of regulation. In 2002, Carolina's Jeff O'Neill scored with 1:29 remaining to send Game 5 of their first-round series to overtime, with Josef Vasicek getting the OT winner at 8:16. Staal scored at 19:57 of the third period in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 2006, giving Niclas Wallin the opportunity to be the overtime hero. No other team has won a playoff game against Brodeur in which they trailed in the last 2:00 of the third period.

One of a kind -- The Hurricanes' comeback win against New Jersey in Game 7 was unique in another sense: Of the 30 first-round games in which a team trailed going into the third period, this was the only one in which the team that was behind after 40 minutes came back to win. In the first 29 instances, the team that led entering the third period won the game. That was a big change from the opening round last year, when teams trailing after two periods rallied to win eight times in 37 games.

Carolina Hurricanes Playoff GearNone of a kind -- One thing that hasn't been seen in the postseason this year is a penalty shot. There were none in the 44 first-round games -- quite a change from last year, when there were five in the opening round, more than in any full playoff year (one was also called in the second round, for a total of six). Should no penalty shots be called throughout the playoffs this year, it would be the first time that's happened since 1993.

Over the hump -- There were only two successful opening-round comebacks by teams that trailed by two or more goals -- Chicago overcame a 2-0 deficit to beat Calgary in Game 2 of their series, and Pittsburgh rallied from a 3-0 hole to beat Philadelphia in Game 6, eliminating the Flyers. That game came on April 25, the one-year anniversary of the Penguins' 5-4 victory against the New York Rangers -- the last time a team had overcome a three-goal deficit to win a playoff game.

But the lack of successful comebacks doesn't mean teams had an easy time holding leads once they got them. There were seven other games (one in each series except Philadelphia-Pittsburgh) in which a team trailed by two or more goals and rallied to tie the game, only to lose. The trend continued Thursday night, when Chicago overcame a 3-0 deficit in the third period, only to allow a late goal and lose 5-3 to Vancouver. The Hawks had overcome a 4-1 deficit in Game 4 against Calgary, only to lose 6-4.


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