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Late goals allow Carolina to stun New Jersey

NEWARK, N.J. - the Carolina Hurricanes stole theirfirst-round series from the New Jersey Devils with one of thegreatest last-minute comebacks in NHL history.

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

"This is as sweet as it comes," said goaltender Cam Ward, whokept the Hurricanes in the game in the final 25 minutes with atleast a half-dozen outstanding saves with his team trailing 3-2.

"What a finish. It's hard to believe right now just because wewere down 3-2 with only 2 minutes to go. How quickly things canchange. That's why you never give up and play until the finalbuzzer."

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 hockeygame to win it," Devils center John Madden said. "I will neverforget it."

Jokinen tied it after taking a great cross-ice setup by JoniPitkanen. Staal then buried the Devils with a shot from the middleof the right circle after a rush up the ice with 31.7 seconds toplay.

"It was pretty quiet when Jussi scored," Staal said. "We wereon the bench and we were obviously the only ones cheering andpretty excited. We went over the boards after that goal and we werelike, 'Why not get another one?' It happened and we'll take thewin."

Carolina next plays the top-seeded Bruins in a series thatstarts on Friday in Boston.

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

Brian Rolston, Jay Pandolfo and Jamie Langenbrunner connectedfor New Jersey, while Martin Brodeur made 27 saves in a game thatwill 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 embarrassing lossin 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 hisface. Most players spoke in very low voices, and none could recalla more gut-wrenching loss.

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

"These guys do a lot of those things against us," Brodeursaid. "They beat us with two-tenths of a second to play and nowthis, it's stunning."

Defenseman Tim Gleason dived to keep in a puck at the point andslid it across to Pitkanen. He skated down the boards, faked a shotand found Jokinen low in the right circle for a shot that wentbetween Brodeur's legs as he slid across to attempt the save.

Staal won the game with a blast from the same circle thatsilenced the crowd of 17,625.

"It was a great shot," Brodeur said. "All series long wedidn't let him skate with speed with the puck down the wing, butfor whatever reason with no time on the clock we let him do it.

"He made the shot he wanted and beat me clean."

At the end, the Hurricanes jumped into one another's arms whilethe Devils stood in disbelief.

"I think a lot of them were in shock, as they should be,"Staal said. "I would be if it was the other way around. It was agreat series. It was a battle all the way through. We fought hard,they fought hard, a couple of overtime games, a lot of one-goalgames. It was a fight to the finish. Two great goalies. It was oneof the best series I've ever been a part of."

Until the late rally, Rolston's second-period, power-play blastwas the difference. It came after a giveaway by Carolina's PatrickEaves in the Devils' zone.

Brodeur then made three saves on a two-man Carolina power-playadvantage. All seemed set for New Jersey to advance -- until thelate collapse.

Whitney had tied the game 2-2 on a fluky goal. Staal made a passfrom behind the net that Whitney took a swing at and missed. Thepuck hit his skate and went in the net.

Ruutu quieted the white-towel-waving Devils crowd -- at least fora minute or so -- when he fired home a shot from the right circlejust 62 seconds after the opening faceoff.

Langenbrunner got the fans going again a little more than aminute later. Zach Parise skated around the net and sent across-ice pass for the captain to slam-dunk from the side of thenet.

Linemates Brendan Shanahan and John Madden made excellent playsto set up Pandolfo's go-ahead goal. Shanahan took a hit at the blueline while making the pass to set up Madden and Pandolfo on a2-on-1. Madden centered from the left circle and Pandolforedirected the puck past Ward.

Notes: The Devils scratched D Bryce Salvador for the thirdstraight game with a knee injury. ... Carolina has beaten NewJersey in three of four playoff series, including the last three.


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