1:20 left to go.
That image will be burned in the mind and hearts of Devils fans across New Jersey forever, at least until they win another playoff series.
And probably until they win another Cup.
Then, with the Devils unable to clear the puck out of the zone, Jussi Jokinen scored on a one-timer from a bad angle to tie the game. I was in disbelief, along with the other 17,624 Devils fans in attendance. I could not believe this game was going to go into overtime. I was so upset.
Little did I know, about forty seconds later, I would be begging for overtime hockey.
Eric Staal came blazing up the wing, with nothing but Mike Mottau and Martin Brodeur in front of him. Mottau gave him the boards, not wanting Staal to deke him out and leave him alone in front of the net. But Staal took the shot he was given, and it went by Mottau, and it went by Brodeur, and went in the back of the net.
Just like that, the Hurricanes went up 4-3.
The last forty seconds of the period were the only forty seconds the Devils played desperate in that third period. Eventually, those forty seconds ran out, along with the Devils season.
Today, Devils fans should be rejoicing, while looking ahead to the Eastern Conference Semifinal match-up with the Washington Capitals. But instead, we're looking back to where it all started and what we can do to make it better, because that was the worst late-game choke in the history of the NHL playoffs.
The Devils would have won this game if they could have converted on several of their scoring opportunities. Madden led a couple 2-on-1 rushes, if he was able to beat Ward, it's 4-2 midway through the third, putting a proverbial knife through the heart of Carolina.
If Madden can make a crisp pass to Pandolfo or White who can bury it home, it's 4-2.
The Hurricanes would not have given up, and they may have scored a goal to make it interesting, but there's absolutely no way we lose if we score that fourth goal.
Which leads me to my opinion that the Devils need to go out and sign a scorer. They claimed to solve their scoring problem when they signed Brian Rolston, who scored 31 goals in '08. Well, guess what? He scored 15 this year. I know, he only played 64 games, but he wasn't the answer.
We need an explosive scorer, such as Marian Hossa who is a free agent this offseason. We need that killer instinct offensively which we lacked last night. This team can no longer be one built around Martin Brodeur. His time is wearing thin, and can no longer carry a team on his back.
But we are the Devils, and we don't do much to improve our team from the outside. We'll bring back Madden and Shanahan.
We'll resign Gionta who will score 25 goals at a maximum, instead of a scorer like Hossa who will score 30 at a minimum.
We will continue to stock our offense with defensive forwards who score 15 goals a year.
And you know what? We'll probably win 50 games again in the regular season next year, win the Atlantic Division again, and have high hopes going into the postseason.
But it'll be the same ol' story in the playoffs if this team stays the way it is.