'Cane do attitude
Carolina eliminates Toronto to win Eastern ConferencePosted: Tuesday May 28, 2002 10:39 PM
Updated: Wednesday May 29, 2002 3:05 AM
Deflecting Josef Vasicek's hard centering pass into the net 8:05 into overtime, Gelinas lifted Carolina to a 2-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night, clinching the NHL Eastern Conference finals in six games.
"I saw it go in, but I had to double-look to make sure," Gelinas said. "But when I saw everybody jumping on the ice, and the building got a little silent, I knew."
It was a fitting goal, coming from a grinder of a player, symbolizing the determined effort the Hurricanes have showed all postseason.
"Rightfully so, at the end of the day," Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said. "It was appropriate that one of those guys scores that goal. ... It's never the guys that you think. It's appropriate for Marty. He's worked so hard. He deserves a little sunshine."
Jeff O'Neill also scored for the Hurricanes, while Arturs Irbe stopped 35 shots, as Carolina improved to 6-1 in overtime games this postseason.
The outcome was eerily familiar of Carolina's 2-1 overtime victory in Game 2, in which the Leafs forced overtime on Alyn McCauley's goal in the waning seconds.
This time it was Leafs captain Mats Sundin who provided his team brief hope, tying the game with 21.8 seconds remaining.
Carolina will open the finals on the road. Defending champion Colorado leads Detroit 3-2 in the Western Conference finals.
The Hurricanes beat the Maple Leafs all three times in Toronto and, coincidentally, also won their previous two series in six games, both times on the road. It was the fourth game of the series that ended 2-1.
The series set an NHL playoff record for fewest goals by two teams in a six-game series. Carolina and Toronto combined for 16 goals, eclipsing the previous record of 20, which the Hurricanes matched in the first round with New Jersey.
The Hurricanes, who moved to Raleigh from Hartford, Conn. following the 1996-97 season, will be the 28th franchise to play for the Stanley Cup since 1918. Not bad for a franchise that had gone 21 years without winning a best-of-seven series.
"It seemed like forever. And now it seems like just a short trip. Things work that way," Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos Jr. said, taking part in the locker room celebration. "It's been a great team all year. They've fought adversity all year and they've always done very well."
The Maple Leafs finally ran out of gas after avoiding elimination four times this postseason, including Saturday's 1-0 win at Carolina.
Toronto, which won last won the Cup in 1967, has now gone 35 years since reaching the finals -- the longest stretch of any NHL team.
"It's the hardest championship to win in sports. And I don't think the stars exactly lined up for us this year," Toronto goalie Curtis Joseph said. "A big credit to our team. We were hard to put out, and we were very resilient. I was proud of a lot of guys in here."
Joseph, who stopped 34 shots, had been the difference through most of the game. He was particularly sharp two minutes into overtime when he first stopped Sean Hill's shot from the point, and then got his pad out to foil O'Neill who was parked alone on the doorstep.
Joseph, coming off a 27-save performance on Saturday, made three remarkable saves in the first three minutes of the third period to keep the game scoreless.
With Carolina enjoying a 4-on-3 man-advantage, Joseph first somehow got his glove up on O'Neill's shot from the left circle. Seconds later, he got enough of Bret Hedican's blast from the right circle, and watched as the puck rolled just wide of the far post.
A minute later, Joseph got his glove out to deflect Erik Cole's one-timer from the slot.
He had no chance on O'Neill's goal, which came with 9:36 remaining.
Stripping Tomas Kaberle of the puck inside the Toronto blue line, O'Neill drove to the net. Joseph made the initial stop, but couldn't control the rebound, which O'Neill slapped into the open net.
The Leafs countered in the late-going when Sundin tapped in a loose puck during a scramble in front, his goal all but raising the roof of the Air Canada Centre.
It was a sad end for a Maple Leafs team that had overcome much this postseason.
Along with missing eight regulars at some point because of injuries, Toronto had survived seven-game series against the New York Islanders and Ottawa. Leafs coach Pat Quinn returned behind the bench on Tuesday after spending most of last week in the hospital, being monitored for an irregular heartbeat.
"Lousy," Quinn said, when asked how he felt. "Physically, fine. But I've never figured out a way to deal with losing, yet. So it doesn't sit well."
Notes: The Leafs entered the game having not scored against Carolina in a 5-on-5 situation. Three of Toronto's five goals came on the power play, one 4-on-4 and another 6-on-5 with the Leafs' goalie pulled. ... The Hurricanes improved to 11-0 in the playoffs when they score two or more goals. The Maple Leafs fell to 4-10 when allowing two or more goals. ... Including the regular season, the Leafs played their 102nd game, while the Hurricanes played their 100th of the 2001-02 campaign. ... None of the 18 teams that have eliminated Montreal since 1968 have gone on to win the Stanley Cup. Carolina was the 19th team to do so in the previous round.