EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- The Carolina Hurricanes didn't manage many shots. But no one gave them a shot anyway.
Facing elimination for the second straight game, the Hurricanes made the most of their few scoring opportunities and defeated the defending Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils, 3-2.
Jeff O'Neill had a goal and an assist and Arturs Irbe made 37 saves for Carolina, which got within three games to two in the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series and hosts Game Six on Sunday.
"It all starts over again Sunday," O'Neill said. "We did a lot of standing around and watching the first three games. I don't know why we played that way for so long."
The Hurricanes are trying to become the third team in NHL history to rally from a three games to none deficit in a best-of-seven series, joining the 1975 New York Islanders and 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs.
"We can't mentally prepare to win four games in a row," said Carolina coach Paul Maurice, whose team was without center Ron Francis and rookie right wing Shane Willis. "But what we can do is look at it as winning each 20-minute period.
"We have some momentum, no question about it. We look at the first 20 minutes of the next game and we're not looking beyond that right now."
The Hurricanes had only 14 shots but won their second straight against a team that had taken 22 of its previous 24 overall. Carolina had not won two in a row in the playoffs since 1992, when they were the Hartford Whalers.
"We're clinging on to our lives and just trying to keep going," Irbe said. "Obviously, we can't afford to lose. We have to do whatever it takes. And tonight, we scored one more goal than they did. That's the bottom line."
"Those guys are playing desperate hockey," Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur said. "And that's working for them."
O'Neill scored 5:47 into the third, giving Carolina a 3-1 lead with its only shot in the first 10:53 of the period. The team finished the third with just three shots.
"They didn't do anything fancy," Devils coach Larry Robinson said. "They were using the boards and trying to get us caught out of position. That's how they scored their three goals."
Bobby Holik scored with 20 seconds left, but it wasn't enough for the Devils, who were booed on a power play in the second period. Fans at Continental Airlines Arena began a mass exodus with 4 1/2 minutes to play.
"We had our chances to get back into the game," Brodeur said. "But we just couldn't do it."
The Devils never had the lead and lost at home for the third time in as many months. They went 0-for-2 on the power play to fall to 1-for-22 in the series.
The teams scored 48 seconds apart midway through the period before Sami Kapanen tallied his second goal of the series at 15:09, giving Carolina the lead for good.
On the go-ahead goal, Bates Battaglia sent a pass from the left boards to the bottom of the faceoff circle, where Rod Brind'Amour one-timed a pass to Kapanen just below the hashmark. Kapanen beat Martin Brodeur with a one-timer for a 2-1 lead.
The Hurricanes were outshot, 16-6, in the first period but still had a 2-1 lead. The total was 24-8 midway through the second, but the Devils could not put a puck past Irbe.
"We certainly had our chances, but we also got a little impatient after they got their two quick goals," Robinson said. "We had a couple of defensive errors after that and I think we were just trying to press too much to get the tying goals."
Irbe, who played in an NHL-high 73 games among goalies during the regular season, stopped 15 shots in each of the first two periods.
"We know if we break down, he'll be back there," defenseman Glen Wesley said. "He made some huge saves, especially early in the hockey game."
"He's been our workhorse all year," O'Neill added. "And he's getting us through right now."
O'Neill made it 3-1 less than six minutes into the third. The Hurricanes skated down on a 3-on-1 and O'Neill put a quick slap shot past Brodeur for his first goal in 11 career playoff games.
"We mixed up the lines to try to get something going and we got caught on O'Neill's goal," Robinson said. "I think that would be my fault."
Carolina's defense did the rest, suffocating the Devils until Holik scored in the closing seconds. New Jersey finished with just eight shots in the third.
"They played flawless defensively in the third period," Robinson said. "They clogged the middle of the ice and waited for us to make a mistake."
"We were able to control the play in the third period very well," Wesley said. "They got one late that put a scare into us. But we were able to come out on top."
Rookie Josef Vasicek opened the scoring for the Hurricanes when his centering pass from the bottom of the left circle ricocheted off the skate of Devils defenseman Brian Rafalski and found its way past Brodeur.
Just 48 seconds later, Gomez scored his second goal of the series. Defenseman Scott Niedermayer made a rush down the left side and around the net before sliding a pass to Gomez in the crease to the left of Irbe.