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No joke: Jokinen on a roll

Finn is flying high for Carolina in playoffs

By Nancy Marrapese-Burrell
Globe Staff / May 9, 2009
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RALEIGH, N.C. - The Jussi Jokinen legend grows.

Jokinen scored the winning goal on a power play at 2:52 of the third period last night, lifting Carolina to a 4-1 victory over the Bruins at the RBC Center and giving the Hurricanes a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series.

With Bruins captain Zdeno Chara in the penalty box, Boston had a chance to go ahead when Marc Savard raced up ice, but Carolina defenseman Anton Babchuk made a great block with his stick in front of the net to send the puck the other way, the result being Jokinen's sixth goal of the postseason to put Carolina up to stay. Former Bruin Sergei Samsonov sealed the victory with a high backhanded shot with 5:29 remaining and Eric Staal added an exclamation point with his second goal of the night with 4:19 left.

Jokinen, a 26-year-old Finn, was a force in the Canes' first-round matchup against New Jersey, scoring with 0.2 seconds in regulation to win Game 4 and tie that series. He potted the overtime winner here against the Bruins in Game 3 Wednesday night, and last night was again the hero.

Carolina, which is 7-0 in the postseason when Staal scores, can close it out tomorrow night at the TD Banknorth Garden.

Jokinen has achieved cult status here. Not bad for a guy who was waived twice by the Lightning before being acquired by Carolina in early February.

Jokinen said he never could have envisioned this type of turnaround from the doldrums in Tampa.

"I knew I'd probably get a chance somewhere," said Jokinen. "I still [knew] I was a good hockey player, but it was tough to have faith [that] I'd get to be playing this good in the playoffs. It's been quite a ride."

Very little has been going right for the Bruins in the last three games but many things have been going right for Carolina, which was billed as an underdog to New Jersey and an even bigger underdog in this series. But coach Paul Maurice believes the series is far from over.

"The challenge for us is going to be [how we're] going to weather the storm we're going to face in Boston at different points in the game," said Maurice. "I know we can look at this game and say it was 4-1, but these games are so tight. [Boston hit] two posts in the first period and it wouldn't have changed one bit how we played. So we will look at our first period [being up, 1-0] and we're excited, it was 12-4 in shots [in the Canes' favor], we had some great chances, and they hit two posts and that's the difference."

Nothing has come easily to the Hurricanes, and Maurice said his players are going to have to scratch and claw for every bit of ice, in every battle along the boards, and on every shift in Game 5.

"We're going in there with the same attitude we've had in each game," he said. "We know what it's like to be in an elimination game and we found a way to play our best and we're expecting them to play their best."

Carolina goalie Cam Ward made 20 saves, including one on a breakaway by P.J. Axelsson in the first period. Maurice said Ward's contribution may have been overshadowed by the excitement of the Canes' offense, but he has been crucial.

"It cuts down on the video you show the next day," said the coach. "There's a truth to that. When your goaltender makes a save, you don't spend nearly as much time angry at the person who allowed the puck to get to that net. A defenseman isn't minus-1 and feeling he just gave up a huge goal, a forward didn't miss a check as bad, you can say, 'Hey, we need to do this a little better,' instead of, 'We can't do this because it cost us the game.' That's what a goaltender does for you. He elevates the confidence level of all the players around him."

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at marrapese@globe.com.

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