A rookie Toronto Maple Leafs forward was hailed as a hero after scoring the winning goal against the Washington Capitals in the Stanley Cup playoffs Saturday in double overtime.
Twenty-year-old Kasperi Kapanen may be the toast of Toronto after he helped clinch Game 2 in the National Hockey League Eastern Conference playoff series, but he got his start in Raleigh.
After the game-winning shot Saturday night in Washington, D.C., Carolina Hurricanes spokesman Mike Sundheim tweeted out a 17-year-old photo of Kapanen in the driveway of his childhood home in Raleigh practicing roller hockey with his dad.
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The photo, dated from 2000, shows a young Kapanen and his dad wearing rollerblades and facing off with a tennis ball.
Kapanen’s father, Sami Kapanen, from Finland, played for the Hartford Whalers and moved with the team to Raleigh when they became the Carolina Hurricanes. Sami Kapanen spent eight of his 13 NHL seasons with the franchise.
“I think all the young guys on this team have played in big games,” Kasperi Kapanen told the Toronto Star. “Obviously this is their first time in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The atmosphere is insane. Everybody is yelling. The cowbells are going.
“I think everybody enjoys playing these games. I’m really excited to go to Toronto to see how our fans are going to be for two games. It’s going to be wild.”
The Stanley Cup playoff series is now tied 1-1. The teams will travel to Toronto for Games 3 and 4 this week.
Duncan: 919-829-4880, @duncanreporting