The Carolina Hurricanes refused to play their part in their opening-round series against the defending champion Washington Capitals. Arriving in the playoffs for the first time since 2009, the Hurricanes were not the inexperienced youngsters who got taught a lesson about the difficulties of the postseason by the grizzled veteran squad. Instead, they fought back from 2-0 and 3-1 deficits in Game 7 (not to mention a 2-0 series disadvantage early on) to outlast the Caps in double OT, 4-3. Almost as if the game was following a script written in a Capitals fan’s worst nightmare, it was Justin “Mr. Game 7” Williams, king of the elimination game and now proud owner of an 8-1 record in Game 7s, who orchestrated the winning goal.
The Caps looked like they had the game on lock early on, getting two goals in the first and answering a Sebastian Aho shorty in the second by rebooting Evgeny Kuznetsov to make it 3-1. But Teuvo Teravainen scored late in that period, and in the third, Jordan Staal beat Braden Holtby for a goal that would keep the game tied for about 48 minutes. The game didn’t end in regulation, however, only because Canes forward Brock McGinn saved a puck off the line with just a couple minutes remaining. Remember McGinn’s name, because he’ll be an important character in just a moment.
Before the winner could happen, there were a lot of exhausted hockey players trying to force a goal. Most of those tries came from the Hurricanes, who outshot the Capitals 18-6 in the overtimes. For a half hour, though, Holtby redeemed himself by turning away everything to keep his team in the series.
But then Justin Williams, whose only Game 7 loss came as a member of the Capitals, showed up to work his magic by getting revenge on the team that ruined his flawless record. With nine minutes to go in double OT, Williams sent the puck from the side into a danger zone right in front of net, and McGinn was there to tap it in, put an end to the game, and finish the Capitals’ season.
The Caps’ loss means that every division winner fell in the first round this year, which hasn’t happened since expansion began in 1967. It also means the Hurricanes move on to face the New York Islanders, which is totally the second-round series everyone was expecting back in October. Most importantly, the 4-3 Carolina win means that we’ll get more Hamilton the Pig giving the Canes good luck.