The Carolina Hurricanes are closing their season badly. A few days ago, they were eliminated from playoff contention just like that. Of course, the elimination was the culmination of a lot of negative outcomes throughout the season, but to anxious fans, it felt like it was “just like that.”
Just like that, the Hurricanes were down 1-0 to the visiting St. Louis Blues in their final home game of this season Saturday night. The Blues have locked up a spot in the upcoming playoffs, owning 95 points at the start of Saturday night’s contest in Raleigh’s PNC Arena.
Let the Goals Begin
13,509 who were mostly part of the Hurricanes faithful watched as their team started play like a team that was fully aware that its season would be over in two days. Less than 30 seconds into the contest, Blues center Ivan Barbashev scored the first goal of the night. In what has become an all too familiar defensive snafu for the ‘Canes, a failure to clear the puck from their zone led to Vladimir Tarasenko launching the puck toward the goal and Barbashev sweeping in the rebound past Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward.
Fortunately, the Hurricanes did not allow the same kind of funk that got on them in their loss to the New York Islanders Thursday night to get on them against the Blues.
Nine minutes later, Klas Dahlbeck blasted a goal past Blues goalie Carter Hutton. Jordan Staal was credited with the assist as Dahlbeck retrieved the puck off of a faceoff that Staal won and slapped it home from a great distance away from the goal.
Learning from Babashev’s “right place at the right time” early marker, Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner swept in his 36th goal of the season from the same spot in front of the net.
Teammate Brett Pesce had fired the puck that Skinner was able to navigate in on the rebound. Here at the end of the season, one has to wonder how many scoring opportunities the ‘Canes missed as a result of not heeding head coach Bill Peters’ repeated exhortations to his players to get in front of the net.
A Fresh 20 Minutes? Time for More Goals!
The 2-1 lead that the Hurricanes took into the locker room evaporated 5:19 in the second when their season-long vaunted penalty kill gave up the tying goal to Alexander Steen.
The game would move into the “wide open” category when Joakim Nordstrom scored his seventh goal of the season, brushing the puck by Hutton at 14:11 in the second.
He too was in the “dirty zone” that Peters loves for his players to occupy. Perhaps they will carry the habit into next season. To their credit, Victor Rask and Sergey Tolchinsky executed some sweet passes to set up Nordstrom for the goal. The Hurricanes were now up 3-2.
Moving from “wide open” to “shooting gallery,” Ryan Reaves tied the game at three apiece right before the end of the period.
A Shorty and Another for Skinner
The third period saw an early penalty on the Blues. Unfortunately for the Hurricanes, it also saw Scottie Upshall score a shorthanded goal, plowing over Ward after the shot as he attempted to make the save.
But, why stop there? Skinner got his second of the night and 37th of the season, sneaking the puck in from behind Hutton. It was 4-4 halfway through the third period.
Close to the End for the ‘Canes, Moving on for the Blues
The game ended tied at four in regulation. With the Blues only needing one point to cement their spot at third in the Western Conference, a tie would not have been the end of the world for them. But, they won the game and two points in a shootout, and are a team that is looking ahead to the playoffs.
The Hurricanes are going to complete their season on the road against the Philadelphia Flyers tonight. Another 82 games and that’s it for a team whose fans are beyond tired of not making the playoffs. At least they got to watch an exciting show at this season’s last home game. A total of eight regulation and a few shootout goals were worth the price of admission.
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.