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Carolina 1, New Jersey 0

April 27, 2002 at 8:47 PM   |   Comments

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., April 27 (UPI) -- The Carolina Hurricanes won their first playoff series in 16 years Saturday, blanking the two-time Stanley Cup finalist New Jersey Devils, 1-0, to capture the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series in six games.

Kevin Weekes recorded his first career playoff shutout in just his second start and Ron Francis scored the game's only goal on the power play in the second period as the Hurricanes snapped a nine-series losing streak.

"It was sort of something we were carrying around on our back," Francis said. "Not that we were so much concerned with it because I think I was the only guy that was here then. But the guys had to hear about it, so it's certainly nice to be able to get that off our back and win a series."

Francis was a member of the only other team in franchise history to win a playoff series, captaining the Hartford Whalers to a three-game sweep of the Quebec Nordiques in the 1986 Adams Division semifinals.

The Whalers lost in seven games to eventual Stanley Cup champion Montreal in the division finals and dropped their next six post-season series before leaving Connecticut following the 1996-97 campaign. As the Hurricanes, they lost in the conference quarterfinals to Boston in 1999 and to New Jersey last year.

"It was a long time ago," Francis said. "For me, having spent almost 10 years in Hartford, I still sort of have that soft spot for that area. But for us in our new market, this is another positive step in the right direction. We're trying to carve our own little niche out."

Martin Brodeur stopped 21 shots but could not prevent the Devils from being eliminated in the opening round for the third time in five years. The other two years, New Jersey reached the Stanley Cup Finals, winning the championship in 2000.

"I think the disappointment is the same if you lose in the Finals or if you lose in the first, second or third round," Devils left wing Patrik Elias said. "We just don't accept losing at any time. Hopefully, everyone in this locker room feels the same way."

New Jersey scored just two goals in the final two games of the series, which coincided with Carolina coach Paul Maurice's decision to replace Arturs Irbe with Weekes.

"I don't think it mattered who was in net," Devils center Bobby Holik said. "We've scored goals against the best goalies, we've scored against backups, but we just didn't do it this series. There's more to it than just their goaltending. As good as it was, there's more to it than that. Two teams play this game. One team does something right, one team doesn't."

Weekes had not started a playoff game until Wednesday, then stopped 72 of 74 shots, including all 32 in Game 6.

"I know you guys (in the media) want to come to me, I'm a goalie, I'm in a good spot. But at the same time, you could just as well be interviewing any one of the other 25 guys on our team," Weekes said. "Even some of the guys that weren't in the lineup, that were in and out of the lineup, they were all a big part of this."

"All great goaltenders have always had a certain calm about them," Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice added. "There are points in the game when he is down and he slides across and he passes that calmness to everyone else because everybody is pretty relaxed on the bench."

Weekes got into the flow early, kicking out his right pad to stop rookie Brian Gionta from the low slot. He caught a break in the second period when Jamie Langenbrunner's floater from the slot deflected off Carolina's Rod Brind'Amour and caromed harmlessly off the crossbar with 12:11 left.

Moments later, Weekes got his right arm on a point shot by Gionta that deflected twice on the way in. He denied Holik on a rebound of defenseman Scott Stevens' blast with 8:45 left in the second and got help 30 seconds later from Wesley, who went down to smother Elias' pass for Gionta on a two on one.

"I've heard a lot of people talk about pressure and talk about being thrown into the fire. This couldn't be any farther away from that," Weekes said.

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