It's been five years now since Jussi Jokinen launched Raleigh into insanity with his last-second game-winning goal in Game 4 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, but each frame of the "Miracle Finnish" still echoes in the memories of thousands.
Jokinen gains possession of the puck. Thirteen seconds left. Jokinen's stuff attempt blocked away by Martin Brodeur. Seven seconds left. Joni Pitkanen holds the puck in on the line. Three seconds left. Dennis Seidenberg takes a long slap shot. One second left.
The puck glances off Jokinen's skate. Half a second left. The puck hits the net. No time left? End of regulation horn. Goal horn. Sudden roar. Mayhem.
The rest is a blur.
"Carolina has won it!" shouted Fox Sports Carolinas announcer John Forslund. "At the horn! A miracle finish! And this series is dead even!"
The last line became one of the more memorable sentences in Forslund's legacy. The second-to-last line evolved into the popular title of the play, adding a pun based off of Jokinen's Finnish nationality.
But within the excitement and pandemonium was an enraged Brodeur: an enraged Brodeur incensed that referees Eric Furlatt and Wes McCauley did not call incidental goaltender interference on Jokinen for a bump just seconds before, an enraged Brodeur ready to break his stick in half on the then-RBC Center boards. It became one of the more infamous outbursts of his 23-year career.
Indeed, a comparison of the Hurricanes' and Devils' television broadcasts of the play reveals each side's bias in the heat of the moment.
Post-game comments from that unforgettable night of April 21, 2009, also echo a tremendous disparity in emotion and opinion between the two teams.
For the Hurricanes, the elation was almost tangible, but so was the reality that the series was still just tied with two of three remaining games on the road.
Jokinen told Brendan Prunty of the New Jersey Star-Ledger: "I think maybe for 40 minutes, we played our best game of the whole season. We were all over them. Then they got some momentum, and Brodeur made some great saves. Our fans gave us some urgency, and we were able to find that goal."
For the Devils, the frustration of watching their comeback from a 3-0 deficit nulled by a call they clearly disagreed with strongly was infuriatingly uncontrollable.
Devils coach Brent Sutter said to NHL.com's Brian Compton: "It's playoffs ... strange things happen. We were able to battle back. Obviously a very strange thing happened."
Brodeur, however, soon emerged as the most outspoken and controversial center of the debate.
"'I had time to reset myself.' That's always the same answer. It doesn't matter which referee. It's the easy way out for them to say that," No. 30 said in the post-game scrum. "The referee has to do their job. Today was pretty awful."
Prior to Game 5 two days later, Brodeur had cooled down somewhat—but only somewhat. "It was all in French so nobody will know about it," he said of his on-ice debate with referee Furlatt, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.
Yet half a decade of zero postseason berths since, the 'Canes can only look back on the night with nostalgia and hope for a future return to the drama of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Jokinen's playoff heroism has moved on to Pittsburgh; Seidenberg's to Boston. Pitkanen is a free agent this summer and may never play hockey again, thanks to an injury suffered now more than a year ago. The Hurricanes have changed tremendously—and not for the better.
In the post-Stanley Cup era, that night in April 2009 may well be the high tide of the franchise—a night with optimism at an all-time high and belief in the "Cardiac 'Canes" slogan wholehearted. Surely, no premonitions about the five-plus-year drought that lay ahead existed that evening.
Reminiscing back, the unabated euphoria vibrating throughout the crowd is undeniably nostalgic and bittersweet for today's fans. The "Miracle Finnish" was a moment that may never be matched in 'Canes lore.
But there's always the replay button.
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