The Carolina Hurricanes have won their first postseason series since 2009, and it was well worth the wait, as they eliminated the defending champion Washington Capitals 4-3 in the third-longest Game 7 in NHL playoff history Wednesday night.
Brock McGinn will forever be remembered in Hurricanes history after he dove in front of the net in the third period to prevent a game-winning goal before tapping in the game-winner in the second overtime.
That goal was assisted by Justin Williams, fittingly nicknamed Mr. Game 7. Willams fired the puck toward the net, and McGinn and his stick—as was the story of the night—were in the right place at the right time.
The 37-year-old three-time Stanley Cup champion and 2013-14 Conn Smythe Trophy winner added to the record for most career points in Game 7s (15) with the assist. Williams is the only current 'Cane who made the playoffs on Carolina's 2008-09 roster other than first-year head coach Rod Brind'Amour.
His extensive postseason pedigree adds a necessary layer to an otherwise relatively inexperienced squad. However, Wednesday's gritty victory will go a long way in boosting the Hurricanes' collective confidence in striving for the franchise's first Cup since 2006.
While Carolina controlled both overtime periods, the home crowd at Capital One Arena started the evening feeling confident after the Caps jumped out to a 2-0 lead within the first six minutes and 23 seconds.
The Hurricanes struggled to create any offense until their lone power-play opportunity came in the second period, which resulted in a putback goal by Sebastian Aho to jump-start the 'Canes comeback.
The Capitals' first-period padding was completely erased in the third period when Jordan Staal tucked the puck into the back post's top corner in the early going of the third period. From that moment on, all life seemed to be sucked out of the Capitals.
After orchestrating a beautiful assist on Tom Wilson's first-period goal, Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin was neutralized. He finished the night with four saves.
According to NHL Public Relations, the Hurricanes' ousting of Washington means that this year is the first time in NHL history that all four division champions failed to make it out of the first round. This is the first year since 2013 that Washington has lost in the first round.
The Capitals' upset comes a day after the Vegas Golden Knights, their 2018 Stanley Cup Final opponent, fell victim to the San Jose Sharks in overtime. The Eastern Conference was officially dubbed wide open when the Columbus Blue Jackets stunningly swept the Tampa Bay Lightning, who had an NHL-best 62 wins.
The Hurricanes' next opponent has had since April 16 to rest, as the New York Islanders quickly swept the Pittsburgh Penguins. The 'Canes will quickly have to get their skates back under them, as Game 1 is less than 48 hours away.
The Islanders beat Carolina 2-1 in the season opener and finished the regular season with a 3-1 advantage over the Hurricanes, but if the 2019 NHL playoffs have proved anything, it's that what teams accomplished during the regular season doesn't matter.
Game 1 of the Hurricanes' second-round series against the New York Islanders will begin at 7 p.m. ET on Friday from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.