Raleigh, N.C. When the New Jersey Devils play mistake-free hockey, they are the team most of the NHL has a hard time beating.
Patrik Elias and Sergei Brylin scored 1:21 apart in the first period, and Randy McKay added two goals as the Devils beat the Carolina Hurricanes 5-1 Sunday to close out the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series 4-2.
"This wasn't easy for us," said Scott Stevens, captain of the Stanley Cup champions who knocked out Carolina captain Ron Francis and top rookie Shane Willis earlier in the series with bone-jarring hits. "We had a gut check here and we got through it."
The Devils, the top seed in the East, will face the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have been resting for several days after knocking off the second-seeded Ottawa Senators in a four-game sweep.
McKay, who had just 14 postseason goals in 104 games entering the series, scored his second of the game six minutes into the third. He gave the Devils a 3-1 lead with 2:03 left in the second period.
"You don't make the playoffs in this league without having a good hockey team, so they showed a lot of courage in the way they played," McKay said of the Hurricanes. "They showed us a good series."
Alexander Mogilny closed out the scoring with 512 minutes left. Bobby Holik added three assists and finished the series with team-high eight points.
The loss dropped the Carolina franchise to 1-10 in 11 playoff series dating to 1980.
"Momentum played a key part in this series," Carolina defenseman Glen Wesley said. "We had it and they took it away."
The Hurricanes were just the 10th team in NHL history to force a Game 6 after falling behind 3-0 in a best-of-seven series. The last team to do so was the former Hartford Whalers now the Hurricanes in 1988 against Montreal.
But Carolina was unable to hold down the top scoring team in the league for a third straight game in front of a wild sellout crowd of 18,730 at the Entertainment and Sports Arena.
The Hurricanes also couldn't continue riding Arturs Irbe, who stopped 32 and 37 shots to win Games 4 and 5.