BOSTON – Scott Walker delivered the final knockout punch to the Boston Bruins.
His overtime goal sent the Carolina Hurricanes into the Eastern Conference finals and eliminated the top-seeded team in the process.
Four days after decking Aaron Ward with his right fist, Walker flipped his first NHL playoff goal over goalie Tim Thomas 18:46 into overtime to give the Hurricanes a 3-2 win in Game 7 Thursday night and foil the Bruins’ hopes to win after a 3-1 series deficit.
“I just went to the net and whacked one in,” Walker said after his 25th career NHL playoff game. “Didn’t take much skill.”
The Hurricanes will open the East finals on Monday at Pittsburgh against the Penguins.
Thomas stopped Ray Whitney’s shot with his upper body, and the puck dropped in front of him. Walker, with Bruins defenseman Dennis Wideman beside him, shot just as the goalie reached out with his stick, too late to stop Walker from putting the puck over Thomas’ left shoulder.
The red light went on and Thomas sped from the net toward his bench while the Hurricanes celebrated.
“I saw the guy coming down the lane, laying up for the shot,” said Thomas, a finalist for the Vezina Trophy. “I saw the shot. I made the save and left the rebound up in the air.”
Carolina, which beat New Jersey in the first round, will now take on the fourth-seeded Penguins, who beat the Washington Capitals in Game 7 of that series on Wednesday.
“Just because we won these series doesn’t mean we are going to change our approach against Pittsburgh,” Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. “If we try to trade goals with them, it will be a short series.”
Cleary’s goal lifts Wings
DETROIT – The Detroit Red Wings were pushed to the brink of elimination on home ice by the Anaheim Ducks.
Dan Cleary came through, though, scoring a tiebreaking goal with 3 minutes left that lifted Detroit to a 4-3 win Thursday night that sent the defending Stanley Cup champions to the Western Conference finals for the third straight year with a victory in the seventh and deciding game of the West semifinals.
“Most teams that have won the Stanley Cup don’t even get here,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “For us to be in this situation is a real positive, but we have a hungry Chicago team waiting for us.”
Detroit will host the Blackhawks in Game 1 on Sunday, matching up the two teams in the playoffs for the first time since the conference finals in 1995.
Before Detroit did it, Colorado was the most recent NHL team to reach the conference finals after hoisting the Cup. The Avalanche lost to Detroit 7-0 in the deciding game in 2002.