Originally created 04/21/01

Hurricanes top Devils



EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Arturs Irbe stopped 37 shots and the Carolina Hurricanes refused to call it a season for the second straight game, beating the defending Stanley Cup champions New Jersey Devils 3-2 Friday night.

The win cut the Devils' lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series to 3-2 with Game 6 scheduled on Sunday at Raleigh, N.C.

Josef Vasicek, Sami Kapanen and Jeff O'Neill scored for the Hurricanes, who are trying to become only the third team in NHL playoff history to come back from a 3-0 deficit. The Toronto Maple Leafs did it in 1942 against Detroit and the New York Islanders did it in 1975 against Pittsburgh.

Scott Gomez and Bobby Holik scored for the Devils, who lost consecutive games for the first time since Feb. 22-23. New Jersey finished the season winning 19 of 21 regular-season games and then it dominated the Hurricanes in winning the first three games of the series.

New Jersey gave away Game 4, playing undisciplined in a 3-2 loss.

Irbe stole Game 5, making at least a dozen great saves. Holik's goal with 20 seconds left only made the score close.

Kapanen, who set up Rod Brind'Amour's game-winner in overtime in Game 4, put the Hurricanes ahead for good with a shot from close range with 4:51 left in the first period.

Bates Battaglia got the puck along the left boards, sent it behind the net to Brind'Amour, who found Kapanen all alone in front for a 2-1 lead.

O'Neill took advantage of a Devils' turnover in center ice to extend the margin to 3-1 at 5:47 of the third period. The 41-goal scorer took a pass from Sandis Ozolinsh and rifled a shot past Martin Brodeur, who stopped 11 of 14 shots.

Holik scored from the right faceoff circle late but it wasn't enough to prevent a Game 6.

Vasicek gave the Hurricanes the lead with a lucky goal at 10:53 of the first period. The rookie from the Czech Republic took a shot from the left circle that deflected off the skate of Devils defenseman Scott Niedermayer and went through Brodeur's legs.

Niedermayer, who missed much of the final period of Game 4 with a sore right knee, made up for the mistake with a great rush. He took a pass from Sergei Nemchinov near the Carolina blue line, skated into the zone and behind the net and set up Gomez for the tying goal 48 seconds later.

Notes: C Ron Francis (concussion), RW Shane Willis (concussion) and D Marek Malik (groin) all stayed in Carolina to recuperate. Hurricanes spokesman Jerry Higgins says Francis and Willis are doubtful for Game 6. ... Devils veteran D Ken Sutton took part in pre-game skate but was scratched when Niedermayer was able to go. ... One matchup that guarantees a hit almost every shift is Carolina RW Jeff O'Neill and Devils D Ken Daneyko. ... Vasicek had eight goals in 76 regular season games. The rookie has two in five playoff games. ... The crowd of 19,040 was the third straight sellout at the Continental Airlines Arena.