Jussi Jokinen continued his late-game heroics for the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs, scoring the game-winner 2:48 into overtime to defeat the visiting Boston Bruins 3-2 in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal.
Jokinen banged in a rebound after Sergei Samsonov found some room in front of the net and backhanded a shot on the Boston goal.
The Bruins took the early lead before Carolina scored two quick goals 1:09 apart late in the second period to turn the tables.
But then Boston tied the game midway through the third, setting the stage for Jokinen's heroics in OT.
"I think there's a belief that's built in, that you have a tendency to keep the faith a little bit longer," coach Paul Maurice said. "The fact of the matter is, the teams that don't are already gone. That's how it works. The teams that believe the longest just keep playing."
Jokinen and Samsonov each had a goal and an assist in the Hurricanes victory. Eric Staal scored the other Carolina goal.
The Hurricanes are now up 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.
It's the third time Jokinen has come through in the clutch for the 'Canes in their playoff run.
He tallied the winning goal with 0.2 seconds left in Game 4 of Carolina's first-round series against New Jersey, and scored the game-tying goal during Game 7 with over a minute left in the third period.
"The last month, the last two months, I've been getting my confidence pretty high, and I'm just believing in myself," Jokinen said. "When you have your confidence high, you feel you can do some good things on the ice."
Thomas tall in loss
Goalie Tim Thomas was the main reason the Bruins were even in Wednesday's contest, making 38 saves as the Hurricanes out-shot Boston 41-23.
In fact, the goaltending duel between Thomas and Carolina goalie Cam Ward is fast becoming the centrepiece in a closely contested series between the sixth-seeded Hurricanes and the top-seeded Bruins.
"I didn't see anything after Samsonov went to the backhand," Thomas said of the winning goal. "He pulled it behind traffic. I knew he was going to shoot. But I never saw it. I didn't even pick it up. I saw the stick swing. That's the time period where I tried to find the puck. I never saw the puck until it was in."
Even though Ward wasn't as busy in the Carolina goal, he turned away a number of quality Boston chances when the Bruins pressed the advantage.
"We had some chances, but there's such a thing as hockey gods, and sometimes they'll give the breaks to the team that deserves it," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "Unfortunately, we didn't really deserve this game, the way we played."
Mark Recchi and Milan Lucic scored the two Boston goals.
And after a quiet Game 1, Staal is clearly winning the battle with Boston's Zdeno Chara.
The 6-foot-9, 260-pound Bruins defenceman was minus-1 for the night and couldn't stop Staal from getting on the scoresheet. Chara was also victimized on the game-winner, as it was his giveaway in the Bruins zone that led to the OT goal.
It didn't help that Boston was down to five defencemen for the latter half of the game. Andrew Ference took a big hit from 'Canes winger Scott Walker in the second period and didn't return to the Bruins bench for the third period or overtime.
The Hurricanes improved to 5-0 in the playoffs when Staal registers a point. The Thunder Bay, Ont., native leads Carolina with nine points in the playoffs.
"We were on the attack. We were skating well," Staal said. "We were hustling to pucks and getting shots through from the point. If it didn't hit the net, we were getting to the loose pucks in the corners. That's a key to our team. That's what makes us good."
Game 4 is on Friday in Raleigh, N.C.
Both teams went end-to-end in the early going and traded quality scoring chances. Thomas had to stop a Hurricane 2-on-1 a minute into the contest, and Ward stuck the leg out to deny David Krejci on a wraparound five minutes later. Boston's Lucic broke the deadlock at 8:43, banging home a rebound off a Dennis Wideman point shot.
Goalie Thomas kept it 1-0 Bruins by making a top-notch save off of Carolina's Matt Cullen halfway through the first. Cullen thought he had the netminder beat but Thomas reached back with his right arm to block the shot.
Thomas remained the story until the latter stages of the second, as he turned away 24 straight shots on net.
But that's when the Hurricanes mounted a furious charge on the Bruins goal, and were finally rewarded on a rare power play goal at 16:49.
Carolina forward Staal stole the puck away from Boston defenceman Steve Montador and put it up and over Thomas' glove for his seventh of the playoffs.
Only 1:09 later, it was 2-1 Hurricanes.
Boston's Michael Ryder coughed up the puck in the neutral zone, and Carolina turned the puck up-ice on a 3-on-2. Scott Walker passed it over to Samsonov in the slot, and the Russian fired one past Thomas' to give the 'Canes the lead.
Carolina did a good job of containing the potent Bruins offence in the early stages of the third, holding them to only two shots until the nine-minute mark.
Bruins tie the game
But that's when Recchi scored to tie the game at 9:03. Winger Chuck Kobasew took a slap-pass that Recchi deflected past Ward to make it 2-2.
Carolina kept pouring the pressure on in the third, but Thomas turned the 'Canes away at every opportunity, including a post-to-post stop on a 3-on-2 rush with a minute remaining in regulation.
Hurricanes goalie Ward matched him, however, with a stop on a Lucic breakaway one minute into OT.