- The Washington Times - Monday, May 20, 2002

RALEIGH, N.C. Desperate times can create unlikely heroes in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Carolina defenseman Niclas Wallin has lived the dream twice.
Wallin scored 13:42 into overtime yesterday his second overtime game-winner of these playoffs as the Hurricanes beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 in Game 2 to tie the Eastern Conference final.
Wallin's overtime goal in Game 4 of the semifinals at Montreal capped one of the best comebacks in playoff history and kept Carolina from falling behind 3-1 in that series. Yesterday's game-winner helped the Hurricanes avoid a two-game hole heading to Toronto for Games 3 and 4 of the seven-game series.
"Our secret weapon got one for us again," captain Ron Francis said of Wallin, a healthy scratch in 29 games during the regular season.
Wallin is starting in the playoffs because of an injury to regular David Tanabe.
"It's so great for him," Francis said. "This guy has hung in there. A lot of nights he didn't have a job in our lineup, and he had to sit on the side and work hard in practice. He's had the opportunity here down the stretch and has done a great job for us. He's been huge."
Wallin's shot from 30 feet, with Bates Battaglia creating traffic in front of Curtis Joseph, sent the Hurricanes off the bench for yet another wild overtime celebration. His shot appeared to hit the leg of a Toronto defenseman before it went between the pads of the Toronto goalie.
"It was a lucky goal, but in overtime games are often decided by a lucky goal," said Jonas Hoglund, who had the game-winner in a 2-1 Toronto victory in Game 1.
"Like I said in Montreal, I'm not a goal scorer," Wallin said. "In practice I can score some goals, but in game time I never get the shots. Now I have two overtime goals. It's just unbelievable."
Alyn McCauley's game-tying goal with 7.4 seconds left in the third deflated the Hurricanes.
"We had to pick our lips up after the intermission," Glen Wesley said. "We were a little tentative in the overtime early, but after that we got back to our game and got our forecheck going."
Carolina improved to 4-1 in overtime in the postseason and to 6-2 in one-goal games.
"I don't know if you can ever get used to this, but it's definitely fun celebrating," Battaglia said.
"Maybe in the end it was the right result. Maybe they worked a little harder than us tonight," McCauley added.
Bret Hedican scored his first goal of the playoffs and second career postseason goal with 12:29 left in the third period to give Carolina a 1-0 lead. He took a pass from Martin Gelinas and faked a shot from the left circle, which drew Joseph out of his net and out of position.
Hedican then pulled the puck back and made a move on the Toronto goalie that froze him, and Hedican snapped it in from a sharp angle as the record crowd of 18,924 erupted.
But Carolina failed to put the game away late. The Hurricanes couldn't score with a two-man advantage of 1:20, and Erik Cole had the puck roll off his stick on a breakaway with 4:37 left.
Toronto pulled Joseph for an extra attacker with 1:22 remaining and had several good shots that were stopped by goalie Arturs Irbe before one last rush. But the Leafs were able to find a wide-open McCauley, who ruined what would have been Irbe's first postseason shutout in 42 games by drilling a high shot from the slot into the net with just seconds left.
Game 3 is tomorrow at Air Canada Centre.
The Maple Leafs expected to get a lift from the return of injured captain Mats Sundin, who missed 12 straight playoff games with a broken wrist, and other regulars Darcy Tucker (shoulder), Tie Domi (leg) and defenseman Jyrki Lumme (concussion).
But Toronto managed just 10 shots through two periods, and it appeared Sundin was unable to shoot with his injured left wrist.
The four injured players made their appearance together 2 minutes in, with the three forwards forming Toronto's fourth line. Late in the first, Sundin had a wide open shot but didn't pull the trigger, instead passing it through the slot on a play that didn't connect.
Sundin also had Toronto's best scoring chance short-handed with a minute left in the second when he and Lumme headed back toward Irbe 2-on-1. But Sundin never really got off a shot after taking a bouncing pass as Irbe made a sprawling stick and pad save.
Several thousand flag-waving Toronto fans drove to North Carolina to watch the Maple Leafs, and tickets were being scalped outside the arena for up to $1,000 each in this suddenly hockey-crazed city.
The mix of fans created an electric atmosphere in the Entertainment and Sports Arena, and there was plenty of skating and hitting in the opening 9 minutes just no shots on goal. And the two teams combined for just 10 shots after 20 minutes.


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