The Canes scored two goals in the final 85 seconds of regulation to tie the game, then scored again in OT to snatch a seemingly sure victory away from the Leafs.
Carolina started the game full of pop, and was able to put almost constant pressure on Toronto goalie Vesa Toskala. The Leafs' netminder was up to the task, though, and repeatedly shut down the very potent Hurricanes attack.
Later in the first period, the visiting Leafs found their legs and started to put pressure on Hurricanes goalie John Grahame. Grahame stood his ground for the most part, but left one rebound too many for Boyd Devereaux, who put back a Tomas Kaberle shot to make it 1-0 Leafs.
After both teams had sauntered through the majority of a somewhat slow second period, Kaberle again flexed his muscles just before the second intermission.
He checked Trevor Letowski behind the Canes net, stole the puck, and shoved a shot past Grahame from the side of the goal. The great individual play made it 2-0 Leafs.
The third period started slowly, but the Hurricanes played with more urgency as the end of the game drew near. They had two power plays on which to do some damage, but the Leafs penalty kill had the answer each time.
With just four minutes to go, Craig Adams took a penalty for high-sticking, and many of the Hurricanes faithful started to leave the arena in disgust. But after the Canes killed that penalty, the “magic” started.
Cory Stillman ruined the shutout bid for Toskala at the 18:35 mark when he put in a rebound from a Frantisek Kaberle shot to make it 2-1. At this point, the Hurricanes were putting constant pressure on the Toronto net. With about a minute left, coach Peter Laviolette pulled John Grahame for the extra attacker, and the Canes went to work.
The only problem for Carolina was that the Leafs were able to bust the puck out of their zone.
Here’s where things got a bit strange. Alex Ponikarovsky found the puck at center ice and started skating toward the Hurricanes zone with Leafs at either side of him. He inexplicably held the puck instead of passing it or shooting it into the empty net—and Hurricanes hero Cory Stillman swept in to steal it from him.
Stillman found Erik Cole streaking back the other way, and Cole carried the puck into the Leaf’s zone. He then made a perfect pass across the ice to an open Ray Whitney, who wound up to launch a one-timer.
The puck found its way into the back of the net at the 19:33 mark, making the score 2-2 and eventually sending the game into overtime.
The crowd was jacked at this point, and the Hurricanes had the ice tilted in their favor throughout most of the extra period. They were able to draw two penalties and had an unusual 5-on-3 advantage for about a minute.
With just 33 clicks left in OT, Eric Staal fired a shot which was tipped in by Scott Walker—and that was your game winner.
I think that the Leafs were still in shock as they left the ice. In the meantime, the Canes heartily congratulated goalie John Grahame, who played a fine game and was able to keep the score close when Carolina’s offense fell dormant.
Carolina played without team captain Rod Brind’Amour who was ill with the flu. David Tanabe left the game early with a possible concussion. Andrew Ladd also missed the game because of the flu, and Mike Commodore was missing in action because of his broken finger.