The Carolina Hurricanes' Top Five All-Time Moments
Although watching the USA men's hockey team during the Winter Olympics might conjure up memories of the Miracle on Ice back in 1980, fond memories aren't all that far-off if you're a Carolina Hurricanes fan.
The 'Canes have given their fans plenty to remember during their short history. Since their inception less than 13 years ago, they've been arguably the most successful hockey team in the Southeast. Hockey fans in North Carolina have been treated to incredible upsets, fantastic finishes, and Stanley Cup glory.
All the while, the Hurricanes and their fans have created a culture within the NHL that is uniquely Carolina.
Here's a look at the top five moments from this young but proud franchise.
5. Apr. 23, 2001 - New Jersey 5, Carolina 1 - Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
How does a first-round playoff loss make this list?
This game marked the point at which the Hurricanes stopped becoming an afterthought on the North Carolina sports landscape and started becoming a team fans in both the Triangle and beyond truly embraced.
Although the overmatched 'Canes were defeated soundly by the eventual Wales Trophy winner Devils, you wouldn't know it from the reaction of the crowd at the then-Raleigh ESA.
Instead of leaving in disappointment when it was clear the 'Canes were going to lose the series, the sellout crowd stood and cheered for the final two minutes of the game, even while the Devils were congratulating each other on the win.
The fans' salute of the Hurricanes for bringing playoff hockey to Raleigh for the first time solidified the special relationship the team would have with its fans from that day forward, and was a symbol of how far the franchise had come since being mocked for consistently playing in front of a half-empty arena in Greensboro just two seasons earlier.
Perhaps the fans' reaction at the end of the game was an indicator of what was to come—the Hurricanes have beaten the Devils in three consecutive playoff series since then.
4. May 9, 2002 - The Molson Miracle
The Hurricanes just needed one amazing comeback to turn a good season into one in which they captured the imagination of fans in both North Carolina and beyond.
The Montreal Canadiens were just one period away from putting a stranglehold on their Eastern Conference Semifinal series with Carolina. Although the 'Canes knocked off New Jersey in a rematch of the previous year's first-round series, they were looking a 3-1 series deficit squarely in the face after heading into the third period trailing 3-0 at the Molson Centre in Montreal.
Suddenly, it appeared that unflappable Canadiens netminder Jose Theodore had a few chinks in his armor.
After Sean Hill and Bates Battaglia pulled the Hurricanes within one goal during the third, rookie Erik Cole tied the game with less than a minute remaining. In overtime, a surprising shot from unheralded defenseman Niclas Wallin found its way past Theodore, and suddenly, the complexion of this series was completely different.
The miracle comeback by the 'Canes rattled Theodore and the Canadiens. Carolina went on to win the series, blowing out Montreal in the next two games by a combined score of 13-3.
Carolina's furious rally in this game opened the door for them to storm to the Stanley Cup Finals, pushing them into the national spotlight for the first time since moving to Raleigh.
3. Apr. 21, 2009 - The Miracle "Finnish"
Down 2-1 to playoff rival New Jersey in their first-round playoff series, the Hurricanes needed a win at home to keep pace.
It looked like everything was going the way of the resilient 'Canes after going up 3-0 on the Devils and outplaying them for most of the first two periods.
However, a late New Jersey rally tied the game 3-3 and seemed to totally take the wind out of Carolina's sails.
The game looked to be headed to overtime, but the Hurricanes had one last shot to tie the series before the buzzer sounded.
It turned out that was all they needed.
Dennis Seidenberg's shot from the blue line was tipped in by Finnish forward Jussi Jokinen with only 0.2 seconds remaining to give the 'Canes a 4-3 victory.
The frenzied crowd at the RBC Center taunted Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur on his way out, as Brodeur claimed that Jokinen interfered with him on the play, though video review upheld the goal.
Carolina would go on to win the series with a Game Seven victory that was just as dramatic as Game Four, as the 'Canes scored two goals in the final 90 seconds of the game to win 4-3.
2. May 8, 2006 - Carolina 3, New Jersey 2 - Eastern Conference Semifinals
It's a strange coincidence that since defeating the Hurricanes in the 2001 playoffs, the Devils have become Carolina's collective whipping boy for incredible postseason finishes.
The most important of these contests was Game Two of the conference semifinals in 2006. Carolina dominated the first game, routing New Jersey 6-0 and looked to put pressure on the Devils by going up 2-0 heading back to East Rutherford.
Not only did the 'Canes do that, they totally crushed the Devils' spirits and thus their chances of making a comeback.
With the game tied 1-1 with less than a minute remaining, Scott Gomez stunned the RBC Center crowd, which had been expecting overtime. Gomez tipped a shot from future Olympian Zach Parise past Carolina goalie Cam Ward to put New Jersey up 2-1 and seemingly give his team the win with only 20 seconds left in regulation.
Undaunted, the Hurricanes mounted a furious assault at the other end, culminating with Eric Staal sneaking a shot past Martin Brodeur with just three seconds remaining, setting off a wild celebration in the stands and prompting the thousands who were exiting the arena after Gomez's goal to come rushing back to their seats.
In a performance reminiscent of his overtime goals in the 2002 playoffs against Montreal and Toronto, unlikely hero Niclas Wallin further cemented his place in the memories of 'Canes fans by scoring on a breakaway in overtime to give Carolina an unbelievable comeback win and a 2-0 series lead.
The Hurricanes would go on to defeat the Devils in five games and win the Stanley Cup a month later.
1. June 19, 2006 - The 'Canes Reign
The Hurricanes have given their fans plenty to reminisce about since they arrived on the scene in North Carolina, but in the NHL, only one thing really matters: hoisting the Cup.
Picked to finish near the bottom of the Eastern Conference at the beginning of the season, the 'Canes defied conventional wisdom and whipped up enthusiasm in the Triangle that reached a fever pitch during the playoffs.
The pageantry, the high-flying play, the tailgating, the fanaticism in the arena, and the incredible comebacks all season long culminated in a night of hockey that could not have been any more perfect for the Hurricanes and their fans.
After Carolina grabbed a 3-1 series stranglehold on the Stanley Cup Finals, the upstart Edmonton Oilers surprisingly took two straight games from the 'Canes, forcing the boys from Raleigh to exemplify their team motto, "Whatever it Takes," in Game Seven.
The Hurricanes, indeed, did whatever it took.
Aaron Ward, Frantisek Kaberle, and Justin Williams all scored for Carolina in a contest in which the 'Canes took the play to Edmonton all night, earning a 3-1 victory and North Carolina's first major professional sports championship.
As Hurricanes captain Rod Brind'Amour hoisted the Stanley Cup, the fans in Carolina reveled in the glory of knowing that they and their scrappy team, once the butts of every snide joke of hockey purists, had reached the top of the world.