The Carolina Hurricanes are the first NHL team to advance to the conference finals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs after a thrilling 3-2 overtime win over the New Jersey Devils in front of the home crowd at PNC Arena on Thursday night.
Jesper Fast deflected a Jesperi Kotkaniemi shot past Devils goalie Akira Schmid on the powerplay at 7:09 into the extra frame to clinch the 4-1 series win in Game 5 in Raleigh.
“I knew it hit me. I haven’t seen where yet, but I felt it, looked back and it was in the net,” Fast said after the game, according to ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski. “Just a lot of happy emotions.”
The Hurricanes will now await the winner of the Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs series, which could end as soon as Friday night if the Panthers can steal another game at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
They currently lead the best-of-seven series 3-1 after the Leafs won a narrow 2-1 contest on Wednesday to avoid the sweep.
It’s been an incredible run for Carolina, who lost three of their best forwards to injury. Wingers Max Pacioretty and Andrei Svechnikov were lost to injuries before the postseason started, while Teuvo Teravainen broke his hand after two games against the New York Islanders in the first round.
“I don’t think you can understate it. I don’t know how many teams with an entire top line out would be able to [chug] along the way we are,” coach Rod Brind’Amour praised.
“I’m just really proud of this group. I’m just an old guy sitting behind the bench just watching this and enjoying how hard everybody is working together.”
The Carolina Hurricanes truly look like a well-oiled machine after winning the Metropolitan Division and dispatching the Islanders and Devils to reach their first Eastern Conference Final since 2019.
The Raleigh-based franchise figures to be the favorite against either the Panthers or Leafs as they look to return to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since winning their lone championship in 2006.
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