Just hours after the Carolina Hurricanes finish their game against the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight, the world will be saying goodbye to 2014 and hello to the new year. Though 2014 saw major changes in the management of the Hurricanes, the roster on the ice remained relatively the same. However, that roster provided some great highs and deep lows in 2014, making this past year a tumultuous one for Hurricanes fans. Here are only a few of the most memorable moments of 2014 for the Carolina Hurricanes.
January 2nd, Carolina at Washington
Carolina began the new year with a victory, an event that would be a rarity in the coming year. The game was memorable for a couple of reasons. The star of the night was Jeff Skinner, who completed his second career hat trick by finishing an odd-man rush in overtime. Ryan Murphy’s pass between the legs of a downed Mike Green was also a thing of beauty. What probably sticks the most in the minds of fans is the run of goals early in the second period, which saw five goals scored in 4:45, three for Washington and two for Carolina. Alexander Ovechkin started this string of goals off with a nasty shot just 49 seconds into the period.
January 9th, Toronto at Carolina
A snowstorm in Buffalo postponed the game before this one, giving the Hurricanes an unexpected day of rest and practice. They used it to their advantage, if the 6-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs was any indication. Jordan Staal had a four-point night, and all six goals were scored by a different Canes player. The victory was their fifth straight, and arguably their most complete effort in entire calendar year.
“That game (postponed) in Buffalo gave us an extra day or two of rest. I didn’t know which way it was going to turn out tonight, but I think that really helped us,” said head coach Kirk Muller. “We had fresh legs and everyone contributing, so I was able to use the full bench, which was great.”
February 4th, Winnipeg at Carolina
Just because a game is memorable does not necessarily mean it’s a good thing. Though the Hurricanes were well out of a playoff position at this point of the 2013-2014 season, watching the team find new and interesting ways to lose games can drive their fans to drink. The February game against Winnipeg was a prime example of that. It wasn’t only that the team wasted another 5-on-3 opportunity in the second period, or that they could only find a way to put one goal behind Ondrej Pavelec. What makes this game memorable is the dying minutes of regulation, which saw all five Canes players completely mesmerized by Jacob Trouba, leaving Chris Thorburn completely untouched to put in the game-winning goal with 1:03 left in the game.
February 25th, Carolina at Buffalo
If the Winnipeg game didn’t cause fans to drink, the Buffalo game only three games later almost certainly did. Despite outshooting the Sabres 38-15, the team lost 3-2 off a goal that was almost a carbon copy of the Winnipeg game-winner. Ehrhoff circles the net, drawing all the attention of every Canes player on the ice. No one pressures the defenseman as he comes out from behind the net, allowing him to throw the puck towards the crease and have it bounce in for the game-winning goal with 44 seconds remaining in regulation. Even the normally composed John Forslund can’t seem to believe the Canes blew it again. This was the delayed Buffalo game from January, which means the wait for this game was kind of like waiting to get a root canal.
March 4th, Carolina at San Jose
The old saying of “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish” doesn’t quite apply when it comes to trying to make the playoffs, as at the end of the year, wins are wins, whether they come in October or April. So when the Hurricanes started a five-game road trip losing the first four games, an overtime victory against the Sharks likely came as little relief. Still, on the eve of the NHL trade deadline, defensive defenseman Jay Harrison was the unlikely hero, scoring his 3rd goal of the season after Elias Lindholm found him sneaking through the backdoor with less than a minute left in overtime.
April 1st, Carolina at Pittsburgh
The Hurricanes should arguably be focusing on their future, rather than the core they’ve spent the past five years building around. No game better emphasized what the future may hold than the first game of April against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Young defenseman Justin Faulk opened the scoring for Carolina, and Jeff Skinner and Elias Lindholm combined for two goals in the second period to put the game out of reach. Anton Khudobin stopped 30 out of 31 shots to stifle the Sidney Crosby-led Penguins. Though Skinner would reach the 30 goal plateau at the end of this season, this game showed his hands could be used for some sweet passes as well.
April 13th, Carolina at Philadelphia
The Hurricanes almost never beat the Flyers. They also almost never win the shootout. So to see both in the final game of the 2013-2014 season is kind of like seeing Big Foot go parasailing with the Loch Ness monster and a unicorn. It was a bittersweet victory for the Hurricanes, however. It finished yet another year where they missed the playoffs, and though they got the win on the night, the way they played in the game was hardly praise-worthy. After building a 4-1 lead early in the second period, the team allowed three unanswered Philadelphia goals, including two in 10 seconds, to bring the game tied heading into the third. When Jeff Skinner scored with under five minutes left in the game, the game should have been over. But the Hurricanes wouldn’t be the Hurricanes without giving up a late goal in regulation.
November 1st, Arizona at Carolina
The game itself was ultimately a forgettable one. Elias Lindholm scored twice in the first period and this was, arguably, the game where Cam Ward took the starting job back from Khudobin, but what made this game memorable was that it was the first. After going winless in the month of October (0-6-2), the Hurricanes earned their first win of the 2014-2015 season with a 3-0 victory over the Arizona Coyotes. This game was also the first of a six-game point streak for the Canes, giving just a glimmer of hope that they could salvage the season after a poor start.
November 22nd, Carolina at Colorado
Not even a month later, the Hurricanes squashed that glimmer of hope quite impressively. After completely dominating the first period, and taking a 3-1 lead into the locker room, Carolina saw that lead slowly evaporate over the next two periods. When Jarome Iginla tied the game with just over five minutes left in the game, one could get the feeling that the Canes would lose the game in regulation. To the surprise of no one, they did just that, allowing the game-winning goal with 1:35 left in the game. Momentum shifted in the second period when Semin was twice denied by the Avalanche goaltender for his first goal of the season.
“The puck is on the goal line and Sems has a shot there. Maybe it goes 4-1 and turns out differently,” head coach Bill Peters said. “I thought they picked up steam and skated us. The goaltender change was a good move by them.”
December 18th, Toronto at Carolina
Thus far, the Hurricanes have scored less than three goals in every game in December, except for one. The game against Toronto was an anomaly for the Hurricanes, who had scored only eight goals in the previous seven games. The scoring drought appeared to have ended, at least for one game, as Chris Terry and Justin Faulk scored in the first period, and Andrej Sekera put the game away on the powerplay midway through the third period. Of course, after this game, the Canes continued to struggle to score, scoring only five goals in the next five games.
Jonathan Gardner currently lives in Raleigh, NC and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.