Jussi Jokinen, a healthy scratch at times this season and put on waivers twice by Tampa Bay before being acquired by Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford in early February, may have a hard time buying dinner around town anytime soon after scoring yet another clutch goal, this time 2:48 into overtime for a 3-2 victory over the Bruins on Wednesday night.
Jokinen’s second dramatic game-winner at home this playoff season gave the Canes a 2-1 series lead heading into Game 4 at home on Friday night. Jokinen also scored the winning goal against New Jersey in the fourth game of that series with 0.2 seconds left to send the RBC Center crowd into a wild frenzy, and added the game-tying goal against the Devils in the waning moments of Game 7.
“That guy is money for us right now,” Cam Ward said of Jokinen. “He’s a guy who steps up his game and takes advantage of the opportunity. He has been a huge contributor to our hockey team ever since he’s gotten here. We’re sure happy he’s on our side.”
The Canes outplayed Boston in almost every facet of the game, outshooting the Bruins 41-23 while winning most of the one-on-one battles that can turn a playoff game in an instant – or a series for that matter.
Carolina won the game on its first rush of the OT, but not before Ward was his remarkable self, stopping Milan Lucic on a breakaway 53 seconds into the extra period, and turning aside three other quality chances before Jokinen’s clutch goal.
“We were just seeing if Cam was sharp,” Eric Staal joked about Boston’s early OT chances. “He made some huge saves. We need Cam to be that way for us.”
“We had some great chances, but there is such a thing as the hockey Gods and sometimes they give the breaks to the team that deserves it,” added Boston coach Claude Julien. “We didn’t deserve this game the way we played.”
Sergei Samsonov’s centering pass against his old club found Jokinen in front of Tim Thomas, who was solid in the Boston net under Carolina’s constant siege all night. But Jokinen stuck his nose in the crease and pounded away until the puck slipped past the goal line.
“I was trying to create some time and space to get the shot off,” said Samsonov, who also had a goal. “The thinking was just to put the puck on net.”
Jokinen said veterans like former Carolina players Gary Roberts and Mark Recchi --- who were with Tampa Bay at the time – encouraged him and told him his time would come. That time is now.
“Those guys kept telling me I was a good hockey player and I was going to get my chance,” said Jokinen, whose goal and assist now gives him seven points in 10 playoff games for the Canes. “They told me to keep working hard and to keep my head up.”
“I didn’t get a lot of my rebound shot, but I got enough,” added Jokinen. “I saw an empty net there. It was unbelievable. It feels great considering the things I’ve been through this year.”
No player on this roster was around in 1999 when the Bruins beat Carolina in double overtime in Game 5 in Greensboro, taking the lead in what was a tied series and eventually advancing to the second round in six games. Only coach Paul Maurice can recall it first hand since he was behind the bench.
Who knows what kind of momentum Carolina can take from this crushing loss for the Bruins, who had yet to play a one-goal game in the playoffs? This was Carolina’s sixth tight game of the postseason, having now gone 4-2.
When asked if he had a special feeling about this team, considering a series of dramatic playoff wins, Maurice just smiled.
“It’s starting to feel that way,” said Maurice, who once again juggled his lines masterfully. “There is a belief that is built in that you have a tendency to keep the faith a little bit longer. But the teams that don’t are gone, that’s how it works. The teams that believe the longest keep on playing.”
Carolina held the Bruins to four shots in the third, but one of those was a game-tying goal by Recchi midway through the period to force the Canes’ third overtime in 10 postseason games. It was somewhat of an unlucky goal against Carolina since Tuomo Ruutu had blocked Steve Montador’s point shot, but the defenseman recovered and dished it to Chuck Kobasew, whose shot on net was deflected in by the former Hurricane.
The Canes were buzzing around Thomas for the opening 35 minutes without much to show for it and was halfway through a mediocre power play with a restless crowd when Carolina got jump-started by none other than Staal.
The Carolina star stole the puck off Montador behind the Bruins’ net after a dump in by Joe Corvo and placed one high on the Boston goalie with 3:11 left in the second.
The crowd didn’t even settle into their seats before a rush down the right wing by Scott Walker set up Samsonov’s one-timer -- with another high shot – 1:09 after the Staal goal and suddenly Carolina had a 2-1 lead heading to the final period.
Boston had an opportunity to get back in the game with a late power play, but Marc Savard, who fell at center ice on the Samsonov goal, was called for goalie interference with 3.5 seconds left in the period to even things out again.
The Bruins hit the post 7:15 into the game and scored less than two minutes later despite Tim Gleason blocking a shot from the point. The puck dropped to the ice in the slot after hitting the Carolina defenseman in the mid-section, and was scooped up by Lucic, who scored his first of the playoffs.
The Canes had constant pressure on Thomas in the opening 20 minutes and generated 12 shots, the best chance coming when Matt Cullen wheeled around in close, but the Boston goalie went sprawling and was able to barely stop the puck with his blocker and stick.
Carolina also didn’t generate much on its first power play late in the period after Andrew Ference was sent off after a vicious boarding hit on Ryan Bayda.
“I really liked the way we played, we played a really solid game,” said Ward, who is now 21-12 all-time in the playoffs. “It’s nice to see us get rewarded in the overtime.”NOTES: Ward has started 38 of the last 39 games for Carolina dating to Feb. 5. … Jokinen has points in four of his last five playoff games. … Staal’s seventh goal gave him 38 career playoff points, moving the center within one of tying Ron Francis for the franchise record. … Staal’s 16 goals are also one shy of the team mark. … Walker (9) and Cole (8) combined for 17 of Carolina’s 38 hits. … Fifteen different Carolina players registered at least two shots. … The Canes are 20-13 all-time on overtime playoff games. … It was the third time the Canes have registered at least 40 shots in 10 playoff games.