The Carolina Hurricanes became the Carolina Giant Killers late Wednesday night when they defeated the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Washington Capitals, by a score of 4 to 3 in double overtime and completed one of the most remarkable series the National Hockey League has ever seen.
In one of the longest hockey games in Stanley Cup playoff history, the Canes took game seven in the best-of-seven series, sending the defending champions home in the first round.
The game that started at 7:30 p.m. lasted nearly until midnight despite the fact that early in game seven the Capitals took a 3-1 lead and looked very much like they would be sending the Hurricanes home – just as everyone predicted before the series started. However, the Hurricanes, who barely even made the playoffs this year – and hadn’t made it into the playoffs in a decade – battled it out, kept the game close and tied the score at 3-3, sending the game into overtime.
In the second overtime period, the Canes dominated, with shot after shot time and time again – appearing much more energetic than the Capitals, a team that only had a half dozen shots on goal in the two overtime periods.
Hurricanes star player Justin Williams, who launched the winning goal that was deflected into the net by teammate Brock McGinn, said after the game that, in the second overtime period, he didn’t know how much gas his team had left in the tank but he did know they were prepared to use every ounce of it.
“I can’t say enough about us answering the bell time and time again,” Williams said of the Canes team that has stunned the hockey world.
He said the win came from a strong belief in the locker room that the team could win the game and win the series.
“It’s just the belief that – we can do this,” he said.
The game delighted and surprised many local hockey fans who stayed glued to television sets Wednesday night.
One huge area hockey fan, Guilford County Chief Deputy Attorney Matt Turcola, said before the series began that he thought the Capitals would sweep the Hurricanes – or, he hedged, perhaps the Canes might win one game. That prediction of a very easy Capital’s win was shared by almost everyone who follows hockey, but the Hurricanes are now making believers out of everyone.
The Hurricanes will now move on to face the New York Islanders in the second round of the playoffs, with the first game on Friday, April 26 at 7 p.m.