- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 14, 2002

MONTREAL Carolina didn't want to play a seventh game against the Montreal Canadiens. The BBC line made sure that didn't happen.
Rookie Erik Cole, the "C" in Carolina's high-scoring line that also includes Rod Brind'Amour and Bates Battaglia, scored twice in the first 3:33 last night as the Hurricanes blitzed Montreal for five first-period goals and breezed to an 8-2 victory to win their best-of-seven Stanley Cup playoff series in six games.
"We said that we wanted to come out and try to get the momentum right away and take the crowd out of the game, but we never expected it to be like that," Cole said afterward in the calm of the Carolina dressing room. "It's just what's been going on the last couple of games, where we're fortunate to get the bounces."
It was the first win in six playoff meetings against the Canadiens for the franchise, which entered the NHL in 1979 as the Hartford Whalers and moved to North Carolina five years ago. Montreal won two Game 7s of those series with overtime goals.
"I think we've taken steps every year," said Carolina captain Ron Francis, who was Hartford's first choice in the 1981 NHL draft and is in his second stint with the club. "This year we've taken some big steps, there's no question. This is the best and deepest team we've had."
And because of that the Hurricanes have gone deeper in the playoffs than the franchise has ever been. Carolina will make the franchise's first appearance in the conference finals, against either Toronto or Ottawa. That series is tied 3-3, with the seventh game tonight in Toronto.
"For me, it's the first time in my career, so it's certainly nice to be on the winning end against these guys," said Francis, whose assist on Battaglia's second-period goal gave him a team-record 32 career playoff points, one more than the franchise record formerly held by Kevin Dineen. "It's good for the guys in the locker room. These guys have come a long way."
So, too, have the Canadiens, who were upbeat despite the humbling loss. They renewed Montreal's hope in them by winning seven straight in the final three weeks of the season to make the playoffs for the first time in three years. The Canadiens also stunned the Boston Bruins, the top team in the East, in the first round of the playoffs.
"It's just too bad because this team has battled all year," said Canadiens captain Saku Koivu, who sat out all but three games of the regular season while battling stomach cancer but scored 10 points in the playoffs. "We're all disappointed, we hate to lose. But these last two games didn't show what we were all about this year. Everybody said we wouldn't even make the playoffs."
Carolina expected the Canadiens to storm out in the first period with the raucous capacity crowd of over 21,000 shaking the Molson Centre with their cheers. But any hope the Canadiens might rally to force a Game 7 was quickly dashed by the enthusiastic rookie from Oswego, N.Y., who scored twice before Montreal took its first shot.
Cole scored his first goal and fifth of the playoffs just 25 seconds in, easily beating Montreal goalie Jose Theodore after the netminder deflected Brind'Amour's goalmouth pass but was unable to control it in the crease.
Cole made it 2-0 at 3:33, again from right in front, this time off a setup by Battaglia after Theodore and Montreal defenseman Patrice Brisebois misplayed the puck.
Montreal had no answer for the BBC line all series. The trio combined to score 11 of Carolina's 21 goals in the series and finished Game 6 with three goals and six assists.
Sean Hill made it 3-0 at 7:55 on a Carolina power play with an assist from Montreal's Chad Kilger. The big winger, who was cruising in the slot, deflected Hill's cross-ice pass for Brind'Amour, and it caromed through the skates of defenseman Stephane Quintal past a startled Theodore.
"They got a couple of lucky bounces, and you looked up at the board and it was 3-0," said Theodore, who was replaced by Stephane Fiset after the first period and returned for the final 1:39 of the game to a huge ovation from the remaining fans. "It's hard to come back from that. When they made that comeback (in Game 4), they showed us they were a good team."
Josef Vasicek made it 4-0 with just over five minutes left in the period.
Many of the hometown fans streamed for the exits after Kevyn Adams deked past Rivet and scored at 18:15 to make it 5-0.
It marked the first time the Canadiens allowed five goals in a period in the playoffs since the Whalers did it at home on April 10, 1988, in a 7-5 victory.
Quintal finally scored for the Canadiens with 11 seconds remaining in the period off a goalmouth feed from Yanic Perreault, who sat out Game 5 with a stomach virus.


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