Hurricanes strike final blow

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.

Hurricanes 3 Bruins 2 (OT)

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 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 recover from 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. With Bruins defenceman Dennis Wideman beside him, Walker shot just as the Bruins netminder reached out with his stick to swat it away

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.”

Boston was trying to accomplish what no other Bruins club has done — win a series it trailed 3-1. They won 4-0 in Game 5 which was marred by Walker’s late-game punch. Then they won 4-2 in Carolina on Tuesday night, giving them a chance to advance in front of their home fans.

Instead, they are 0-21 in those series, with only two going seven games. The other came last year in the first round against the Montreal Canadiens.

Walker’s goal “sucks the life out of you,” said Milan Lucic, who tied the game 2-2 at 6:19 of the third period. “We worked hard to get back in the series and don’t get rewarded.”

The Bruins were upset that the NHL rescinded an automatic suspension for Walker, who was fined US$2,500. Ward and Carolina’s Matt Cullen faced each other during a stoppage in play and Walker skated over and knocked Ward to the ice.

“We knew it would be a tough night for Scotty coming back to this building,” Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward said. “He’s such a valuable player to this hockey team, and it’s nice to see he was rewarded.”

The Bruins didn’t find the loss tougher to take because Walker netted the winner.

“It doesn’t matter who scored,” forward Shawn Thornton said. “The season’s over.”

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