Swimming in the wintertime? Unlikely. Snow in Miami? Unlikely.
The Carolina Hurricanes making the playoffs? It happened.
For the first time since the 2008-2009 season, thanks to a 3-1 win over the New Jersey Devils on Thursday, April 4, combined with a Washington Capitals 2-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens, the Carolina Hurricanes are going back to the playoffs.
Yes, you heard that correctly. The Carolina Hurricanes are in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, ending the NHL’s then-longest-active playoff drought at 10 seasons. That distinction now, unfortunately, belongs to the Buffalo Sabres, who have now missed the playoffs in eight straight seasons, this one included.
Going into their game on Thursday, April 4 against the New Jersey Devils, the Canes knew the pressure they were up against. Win and get help, and they were in. And early in this game, that pressure looked to get to the Canes, as Devils defenseman Andy Green scored 4:56 into the game on a wrist shot from the top of the circle, giving the Devils an early 1-0 lead.
The Canes, however, were not fazed by this, as winger Warren Foegele put them on the board a little over five minutes later at the 9:57 mark on a breakaway pass from defenseman Dougie Hamilton to tie the game up at 1. There was a power play opportunity in the first period that the Canes could not convert on, one of two for the game.
Near the end of the first period, the Devils got called for a penalty. As time was expiring, the Devils got called for another penalty, and to start the second period, the Canes had a five-on-three advantage for 20 seconds.
As one Devil exited the penalty box, one hockey puck entered the net. After passing it around behind the net, Faulk ripped a slap shot from the top of the circles that made it past the right shoulder of Devils goalie Cory Schneider for a 2-1 Canes lead. That was all the second period would write, as the Canes took that 2-1 lead into the third period.
One period stood between the Canes and a victory. And after a period in which the Devils dominated early, peppering Mrazek with shot after shot, the Canes weathered the storm, as trade deadline acquisition Nino Neiderreiter with 3:25 remaining to put a much needed insurance goal on the board, stretching the score to 3-1. The Devils would pull Schneider and try to tie up the score, but the Canes defense held strong, as they won this game, 3-1.
Moments later, the final score of the Capitals-Canadiens game flashed on the Jumbotron at PNC Arena: Capitals 2, Canadiens 1. The PNC Arena crowd erupted in joy. For some of the young kids in attendance, this was the first time they have ever seen their favorite hockey team make the playoffs.
The wait is finally over. Caniac Country, we did it. We are, for the first time in 10 years, playoff bound.
We need to take care of business against the Philadelphia Flyers today, however, as this game, combined with the Columbus Blue Jackets’ performance against the Ottawa Senators, will determine who we play in the first round.
Win this game, and win the Stanley Cup. NHL, it is time to take warning.
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