- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 29, 2009

NEWARK, N.J. | The Carolina Hurricanes stole their first-round series from the New Jersey Devils with one of the greatest last-minute comebacks in NHL history.

Jussi Jokinen and Eric Staal scored in a 48-second span late in the third period as the Hurricanes stunned the Devils 4-3 in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference series.

“This is as sweet as it comes,” said goaltender Cam Ward, who kept the Hurricanes in the game in the final 25 minutes with at least a half-dozen outstanding saves with his team trailing 3-2. “What a finish. It’s hard to believe right now just because we were down 3-2 with only two minutes to go. How quickly things can change. That’s why you never give up and play until the final buzzer.”

It was the second shocking loss for the Devils in the series. They lost Game 4 on a goal by Jokinen with 0.2 seconds to play.

This time they gave away the series in the final 1:20.

“They scored two goals in the final two minutes of a hockey game to win it,” Devils center John Madden said. “I will never forget it.”

Jokinen tied it after taking a great cross-ice setup by Joni Pitkanen. Staal then buried the Devils with a shot from the middle of the right circle after a rush up the ice with 31.7 seconds to play.

“It was pretty quiet when Jussi scored,” Staal said. “We were on the bench, and we were obviously the only ones cheering and pretty excited. We went over the boards after that goal, and we were like, ‘Why not get another one?’ It happened, and we’ll take the win.”

Carolina next plays top-seeded Boston.

Tuomo Ruutu and Ray Whitney also scored for Carolina, and Ward was magnificent, making 32 saves.

Brian Rolston, Jay Pandolfo and Jamie Langenbrunner connected for New Jersey, while Martin Brodeur made 27 saves in a game that will be remembered as much for Carolina’s comeback as the Devils’ choke.

For the Devils, it was their second straight first-round exit, and this one had to be tougher than last year’s loss in five games to the Rangers.

“I really don’t know what to say. I am shocked, stunned,” Devils coach Brent Sutter said.

Zach Parise sat in front of his locker with his hands in his face. Most players spoke in very low voices, and none could recall a more disheartening loss.

New Jersey was 1:20 away from advancing when its world was shattered.

“These guys do a lot of those things against us,” Brodeur said. “They beat us with two-tenths of a second to play and now this. It’s stunning.”

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