RALEIGH -- It took a puddle for the Carolina Hurricanes to make a splash in the playoffs.
The ice had been newly resurfaced for overtime and despite its glassy sheen there were many spots where water remained on the surface, unfrozen.
One of those spots was just inside the New Jersey Devils' blue line.
That's where the puck skidded to a halt, forcing Sami Kapanen to pause before shooting. That pause made all the difference.
As Kapanen wound up, Rod Brind'Amour charged toward the net, his stick extended.
Brind'Amour reached out and deflected Kapanen's shot through Devils goalie Martin Brodeur's legs, giving the Canes the game-winner 46 seconds into overtime Wednesday and a 3-2 win over the Devils in Game 4 of their first-round playoff series.
"First I thought he was just going to shoot it, and I wouldn't have been there in time," Brind'Amour said. "But he kind of held up, and I thought I could get there if I could get a little burst in there, and he just laid it on the tape."
Strategy? Tactics? No. Moisture.
"I was trying to take a shot, but what happened was it was early in the period, and the puck stopped a little bit in the water," Kapanen said. "I had to take my shot back, and I had a little more time. I looked, and I saw Roddie heading for the net."
And the rest is history, at least for this franchise.
As the Canes piled off the bench to swarm over Brind'Amour and Kapanen, they displayed a joy that had been utterly absent in the first three games of the playoff series, all New Jersey wins.
Now, they go back to New Jersey for Game 5 with a scant measure of hope and heaping handfuls of pride.
"It didn't come easy," goalie Arturs Irbe said. "We got rattled a couple of times, but we always gave hit for hit and stood up and didn't want to back down."
The Canes came out with real fight, not the literal kind on display Tuesday.
There was no Scott Stevens subtext - Stevens only had one big hit, and Kapanen saw it coming and was able to give as good as he got - and the cheap stuff that characterized Tuesday's loss was absent as well.
Instead, it was playoff hockey at its best: Intense, skilled and with an overtime game-winner.
For the first time in the series, the Canes scored first. Kapanen tapped in the rebound of a Brind'Amour shot to end Martin Brodeur's shutout streak at 130:33 and give Carolina its first lead of the series at the 2:00 mark.
The Devils' Jason Arnott tied it up later in the first, but David Tanabe put the Canes back in the lead on a four-on-three power play in the second.
The Canes were on another power play in the third when that old bugaboo, short-handed goals, crept up on them again.
Carolina gave up an NHL-high 16 in the regular season and after Brodeur pushed away a Brind'Amour wrap-around, Petr Sykora's long wrist shot at the other end through two defensemen beat Irbe to make it 2-2 with 10:29 to play.
Brodeur made two big saves to send the game to overtime, where it didn't take long for Kapanen and Brind'Amour to spark the celebration.
"We said, 'Let's play our system, but let's try to win the hockey game. Let's go out there and go for it,' " Jeff O'Neill said. "We did. Sami made a great play, and it was a great deflection."
The Canes know they're a long way from being back in the series. But they also know a lot of people wrote them off after Tuesday - not only because they were behind 3-0, but because of the way they got there.
Wednesday provided some measure of vindication that the Canes not only belonged in the playoffs but that they could beat the best the NHL had to offer.
"Whenever a team's down 3-0, nobody gives you a chance and rightfully so," O'Neill said. "Not a lot of teams come back to win that game. Friday's a big one. If we win that one, it can get interesting."
It got interesting Wednesday, if only because Brind'Amour and Kapanen proved the Canes have the capability to make a series out of it.
They may be too late to turn the series around, but for one night it wasn't too late to show their fans there was still something left to celebrate this season.