In the ancient year of 2002, the Carolina Hurricanes played the Montreal Canadiens in game 4 of the 2nd round in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Carolina found themselves in a tight series with the Montreal Canadiens. Carolina had won game 1 by a score of 2-0. Montreal won Game 2 by a score of 4-1. Montreal took game 3 as well, 2-1. It was game 4, and Carolina needed to win in Montreal to re-take home-ice advantage. A vital game in the series, it could push the Canes to the bring, or even it all out.
It would not be a good start for the Carolina Hurricanes. Andreas Dackell gave the Habs a 1-0 lead in the first period, and it was a sign of the next 40 minutes. When Yannic Perrault put the Habs ahead by 2 before the end of the 1st period, it seemed bleak for the Hurricanes. After just 20 minutes of hockey, Carolina was in a hole.
When Sergei Berezin would make it 3-0 on the powerplay, it seemed like all hope was lost. Jose Theodore had kept the canes to 2 or fewer goals in every game of the series, it seemed like Carolina would just have to wait for game 5. At the end of 40 minutes, Carolina had no goals and no hope. It seemed like it was just insurmountable.
Very quickly, fans began to realize they were wrong, and they’d never been so grateful. On a powerplay, Bates Battaglia would take the puck at the near circle. Quickly the puck was moved to Sami Kapanen, who tapped it down to Ron Francis. Francis found Sean Hill and Hill found twine. Carolina had a goal, and there was hope. It was a big ask, but not impossible. 16 minutes left, 3-1 Habs.
Time was against the Carolina Hurricanes. Every second ticking past was hurting the Canes chances of coming back, every save Theodore made stopped the canes pushing on more and more. It seemed like it was going to be another story of Jose Theodore just shutting the door, and putting the Canadiens within reach of the next round of the playoffs.
But with 7 minutes left, Carolina struck again. Montreal couldn’t clear their own end, and Carolina took the puck away at the offensive blue-line. Marek Malik would keep the puck in and play it over to Rod Brind’amour. Brind’amour found a wide-open Bates Battaglia, and Bates made sure the puck went in. Carolina was down by 1 with 7 minutes left, and all of a sudden, there was hope.
But Carolina could not find a 3rd, seconds were ticking past, seconds turned into minutes and time was of the essence. Carolina needed a big play from the face of the franchise. They needed Francis to come forward and give them one last chance to tie this game up and force overtime, and the Captain came through with flying colors.
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Carolina had pulled the goalie for the 6th skater because there were 60 seconds left. A shot from the point rained chaos down on the crease of Theodore.
Brind’amour threw it at net, and Jose said no. Francis in tight bangs it off the pad of the goalie, who loses sight of it. It pops out to a wide-open Erik Cole, and Carolina had come all the way back. From 3-0 down to 3-3 in the space of 17 minutes.
Overtime beckoned, and there would be another chance for a hero in this series. Someone was going to push Carolina to the wall, or bring Montreal back down to earth. Someone was going to go from being just another player to capping off one of the most exciting games in Carolina Hurricanes playoff history (It’s not the highest bar, but still.)
Up steps the secret weapon. 4 minutes into overtime and Brind’amour was out to take a face-off. If you ever watched Brind’amour int he face-off circle, you knew he was going to win it. It was a question of what next, and a simple point shot from Niclas Wallin got through everyone and it capped off the most unlikely comeback in the most insane scenario.
Thus was born the name of the secret weapon, and to quote one of my favorite commentary lines of all time “You could not have had a better ending if it was written in a storybook”