Hurricanes 3, Devils 2, OT

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – The never-give-up Carolina Hurricanes did it again, forcing overtime in the waning seconds before a lucky bounce gave them another victory.

Poor Martin Brodeur.

Niclas Wallin had the puck knocked off his stick during a rush early in the extra period, but it bounced off his skate through Brodeur’s legs at 3:09 to help the Hurricanes beat the New Jersey Devils 3-2 Monday night and take a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinal series.

A video review upheld Wallin’s first goal of the playoffs.

In the opener, neither of Carolina’s first two goals were actual shots on net, with deflections pushing the puck over the line. It helped lead to a 6-0 rout for the home team, the worst playoff loss of Brodeur’s famed career, and he and his teammates promised a better effort in Game 2.

They gave it, but it still wasn’t enough stop the Hurricanes, who have handed New Jersey consecutive losses after the Devils’ record-tying 15-game winning streak that began in the regular season and continued through a four-game playoff sweep of the New York Rangers.

Carolina and young goalie Cam Ward have won six in a row after the Hurricanes dropped their first two playoff games to Montreal in the opening round with Martin Gerber in the nets.

New Jersey appeared on its way to a victory in regulation when Scott Gomez deflected in a shot from Zach Parise with 20 seconds remaining. Carolina defenseman Mike Commodore, who was stride-for-stride with Gomez, also got his stick on the puck before it skittered by Ward for a 2-1 lead.

The Devils hardly had completed their celebration when the Hurricanes tied it again, when Eric Staal took a nifty backhanded pass from Justin Williams to beat Brodeur with only 3 seconds on the clock. It set up New Jersey’s first OT game of the postseason, while Carolina had three in the first round against Montreal.

Brodeur fell to 8-19 in playoff overtime games during his career, but he hardly can be blamed for this one. He bounced back with a gem – sprawling, stretching, jumping and even dancing to cover the crease as the Hurricanes had a 38-23 advantage in shots.

The game’s first two goals were among the prettiest of the postseason. First, the Devils finally solved Ward – the 22-year-old rookie who shut them out in Game 1 – with some brilliant passing.

All five New Jersey players touched the puck in a quick moving assault, with Brian Rafalski starting it off with a pass to Patrik Elias. Instead of shooting, Elias fed Jamie Langenbrunner right in front of the crease, and he had time to settle the puck before beating Ward to the high side of the net.

The first goal for the Devils gave them the lead, and they held it for more than 30 minutes. It disappeared when the Hurricanes went on the power play, which served them so well in the opener when they got five of their six goals with the man-advantage.

With New Jersey defenseman Richard Matvichuk off for holding, Doug Weight carried into the zone before stopping quickly. He fed Ray Whitney near the point, and a touch pass found Mark Recchi all alone on the doorstep. He simply deflected the puck into the net before Brodeur had a chance to recover, and the score was 1-1.

The entire sequence took only a couple of seconds.

Notes: Whitney celebrated his 34th birthday. … New Jersey D Colin White (groin) missed his fifth straight game – he was on the ice for only 4:54 in the series opener against the New York Rangers. … Carolina D Aaron Ward took a puck off his forehead early in the second period and left the ice with blood flowing down his face. He missed less than 6 minutes of game action before returning.

AP-ES-05-08-06 2244EDT

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