Raleigh, N.C. Desperate times can create unlikely heroes in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Carolina defenseman Niclas Wallin has lived the dream twice.
Wallin scored 13:42 into overtime Sunday his second OT game-winner of these playoffs as the Hurricanes beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 in Game 2 to tie the Eastern Conference final.
Wallin's OT goal in Game 4 of the semifinals at Montreal capped one of the best comebacks in playoff history and kept Carolina from falling behind 3-1 in that series. Sunday's game-winner helped the Hurricanes avoid a two-game hole heading to Toronto for Games 3 and 4 of the seven-game series.
"Our secret weapon got one for us again," captain Ron Francis said of Wallin, a healthy scratch in 29 games during the regular season.
Wallin is starting in the playoffs because of an injury to regular David Tanabe.
"It's so great for him," Francis said. "This guy has hung in there. A lot of nights he didn't have a job in our lineup and he had to sit on the side and work hard in practice. He's had the opportunity here down the stretch and has done a great job for us. He's been huge."
Wallin's shot from 30 feet, with Bates Battaglia creating traffic in front of Curtis Joseph, sent the Hurricanes off the bench for yet another wild OT celebration. His shot appeared to hit the leg of a Toronto defenseman before it went between the pads.