Game 7s are way to nerve-wracking for diaries, so watch this space as we woolgather while watching the final act in what’s been a pretty extraordinary playoff series.
– While killing time before the Devils game starts, we tune to the Rangers game. Sam Rosen, when reporting on the absence of Blair Betts, says, “The Rangers will be without one of their best underrated players tonight.” Boomer finishes his thought, “But no worries, their overrated players are in the line-up.”
– We attempt to change channels for the Devils game at 7:30. Pookie is not on her A game with the zapper — we end up first on a Spanish-language soap opera, and next on a program featuring some sort of traditional Asian music. Hm. Is this a sign from the Hockey Gods?
– Hey, wait a minute… Aren’t the Rangers playing a Game 7 tonight? Why is Stan here at our game? Wouldn’t he rather be in DC tonight? Or does he still think the Rangers swept?
– The tension dissipates early here at stately IPB Manor as Marty fails to notice the game has started, and Ruutu puts the Canes up 1-0 a minute in. Chico is flummoxed on the replay, and stutters while we all watch Marty completely biff the save, “I don’t know what happened…” Boomer answers for him, “It went in the net. That’s what happened.”
– The Poppers give us enough time to type out our thoughts about the Canes goal, then they remind us why we liked them all year. A sassy pass from Zach across the goal mouth turns into a Langer goal (of all things. Langer! Scoring! Madness!), and it’s 1-1.
– WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! PandoNation is rioting in the streets! Shanny springs his linemates on a slow-developing, wide two-on-one, and Madden laces a perfect pass to a perfectly-streaking-to-the-net Pando… and it’s 2-1 Devils!!! Boomer is in the kitchen when it happens, and she asks us who scored after our cheering subsides. Schnookie shouts happily, “PANDO!” Boomer responds dryly, “There’s your unexpected hero.” Schnookie narrows her eyes and snips, “Shut up. He’s a big-game player.”
– The Devils get an early man advantage in the second period, and, as usual, make a mockery of the concept of a power play. The Canes promptly score when they get back to even strength, and it’s a 2-2 game. We don’t think it’s unfair to say that this has been one of the worst games Applesauce has played as a Devil.
– Look, we realize the Kazoo’s goal there was a bit flukey, but Chico needs to stop acting like it’s the single most amazingly weird thing he’s ever seen. Chico? Guys score on shots they flubbed all the time. And no amount of telling us it “was as bizarre as they come” will make us think that Marty (or Mottau) couldn’t have been more heads-up on the play.
– WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The Devils end up on another power play (when the Poppers draw the call off a fantastic hard-cycling shift, Schnookie groans, “Oh shit. That means we’re going on the PP”), and at first it looks like it’s going to be one of those holding-off-the-other-team-from-scoring-a-shorty two minutes. But then the Canes turn the puck over to Clarkson at the Devils blue line, he pushes the puck up to a slowly-rushing Gio, then Gio punches a cross-rink pass into open space as the Canes overcompensate in getting back. The play unfolds in what seems like slow motion, with the puck just sitting there inside inside the Carolina blue line, and then Rolston skates into the frame and one-times a shot right past Ward. 3-2 Devils, and frankly, we think that might be the first one-timer a Devil has gotten on goal all season.
– The crowd at The Rawk is awesome tonight. And when the Devils kill off a 5-on-3, and the 5-on-4s around it, they rise to their feet in a full towel-waving frenzy, and giving a big “Marty!” cheer for some stellar goalie PK-ing.
– Zach then kills our buzz by taking a roughing penalty in the offensive zone. Thanks, Zach.
– Zach gets drilled in the face by Gleason’s stick while he’s parked in front of the net, and he falls to the ice, feet kicking, taking several years off our lives while we wait to see if he’s okay. He gets up a few moments later to show a big bloody welt on his cheekbone. And he’s well enough to get out on the ice during the ensuing double-minor. We wonder what it would take, now that we think about it, to make it so Zach didn’t get out on the ice for the ensuing PP.
– We spend the first half of the third period in a state of nervous catatonia. We are jolted out of it by Captain Fuck This Shit taking an offensive-zone penalty. Now we are in a state of angry nervous catatonia.
– Langer’s penalty doesn’t end up costing the Devils, and on his next shift out of the box, he helps the Poppers on another one of their patented cycling shifts; he gets three point-blank shots, but Ward is up to the challenge. We are now in a state of frustrated nervous catatonia.
– Cam Ward and one of his defenders face the easiest two-on-one rush in the history of all time: Madden carrying the puck with Whitey lumbering up the wing. Yeah, no need to defend for the pass there. The catatonia remains.
– No matter how good the Devils look in a game, they’re still the Devils. They get pinned forever in the defensive zone, with the bad-news combo of Greener and Havelid coughing the puck up over and over and over again on the boards, and Marty not willing to cover the puck when he has a chance, and, predictably, the play finally turns into a goal. 3-3 game, with 1:20 left in the third. Funfuckingfetti.
– The Devils ice the puck. Boomer reflects on the game-tying sequence and sighs, “If only we’d been able to change defensive players.” Pookie completes her thought for her: “At the start of the season.”
– And with just over 30 seconds left in the game, it’s the same old story. As usual, the Devils give up a third-period lead to the Canes. Hooters scores off the wing, and it’s 4-3 Canes.
– Chico says after the buzzer that this was a completely unexpected turn of events. Considering how many times we’ve seen this happen between these two teams, what on earth was unexpected about it?
Anyway, this was an awesome, awesome series, the outcome notwithstanding. Thanks, Canes, for giving us seven great hockey games, and thanks, Devils, for at least not looking as shitty as you did in last year’s first round. It’ll be interesting to see what the off-season holds for our boys. And we wish the Canes luck in the next round — if there’s one thing we’re taking away from this series it’s that that Cam Ward kid is for real. Sorry we doubted you in ’06, Wardo. We’ll stop comparing you to a puppy-mill puppy now.