Jesper Fast deflected a Jesperi Kotkaniemi shot past Devils goalie Akira Schmid on the power play at 7:09 of overtime for the series-clinching win. The Hurricanes earned the overtime power play after Devils defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler was penalized for delay of game after sending the puck over the glass from the defensive end. It was Fast's fifth goal of the playoffs.
"I knew it hit me. I haven't seen where yet, but I felt it, looked back and it was in the net," said Fast after the game. "Just a lot of happy emotions."
The Devils came out strong in overtime but couldn't find a way to extend the series.
"We had some really good looks in OT," Devils star Jack Hughessaid. "We were playing well. Obviously just a bad penalty and that's how they get their goal. So, not a great way to lose."
New Jersey was making its first appearance in the second round since 2012, following the most successful regular season in franchise history (.683 points percentage). The young Devils, led by 21-year-old star Hughes, defeated the rival New York Rangers in seven games before falling to the Hurricanes.
Hughes didn't take line rushes with his team before Game 5. Devils coach Lindy Ruff confirmed after the game that Hughes, who had an assist in Game 5, has an upper body injury.
"I didn't think he was even going to play tonight. For him to put the skates on and play just says a lot about his character," Ruff said.
This is Carolina's first trip to the conference finals since 2019. There were concerns about the Hurricanes' offense coming into the playoffs. Wingers Max Pacioretty and Andrei Svechnikov were out with injuries while Teuvo Teravainen was lost to injury after two games against the New York Islanders in the first round.
But rather than relying on their defense, the Hurricanes entered Game 5 tied for third in the playoffs in goals per game (3.70). They scored at least three goals in seven of their 11 playoff games.
"I don't think you can understate it. I don't know how many teams with an entire top line out would be able to [chug] along the way we are," coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "I'm just really proud of this group. I'm just an old guy sitting behind the bench just watching this and enjoying how hard everybody is working together."
The Devils took a 1-0 lead in the first period as winger Timo Meier hit Dawson Mercer with a cross-ice pass in front of the Carolina net. Mercer knocked it home for his third of the playoffs at 15:06.
The Hurricanes struck back against goalie Akira Schmid, who was making his first start since Game 2 in Raleigh. Defenseman Jaccob Slavin's long shot deflected en route to Schmid and bounced through him for the 1-1 tie, just 50 seconds into the second period.
Meier earned another point on a power-play goal, smacking the puck through Frederik Andersen (27 saves) on the power play after a Dougie Hamilton shot. The Devils had a 2-1 lead at 7:15 of the second period.
But defenseman Brent Burns tied the game with 38 seconds remaining in the second period, beating a screened Schmid to make it 2-2.
The Devils had their opportunities to score more, as Meier, Nathan Bastian and Ondrej Palat all missed on high-danger chances against Andersen. But they couldn't convert, the game went to overtime and the Hurricanes advance.
"Losing sucks, man," Devils winger Erik Haulasaid. "You put a lot of effort into it. It's a long season -- preseason, training camp, 82 games, playoffs -- and then when you come up short it sucks."
Haula is one of a dozen free agents for the Devils this offseason.
"I have faith in this team. I think it shows what we had in this locker room. I think it's going to be a bright future," he said.