|FLA||2||2||0||(0 - 0)||4|
|CAR||1||1||1||(0 - 0)||3|
The next 24 hours will be tough for the Carolina Hurricanes.
In charge of their own destiny with a chance to clinch the Southeast Division title on the last day of the regular-season, the Canes dropped a 4-3 decision to Florida and must now hope for a Washington loss Saturday at home to these same Panthers to make the 2008 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Carolina, 13-1-2 in their last 16 home games, came in tied with the Caps at 92 points, but owned the division tie-breaker with more wins. All the Canes, in first place all but 14 days this season, had to do was beat a Florida team that hadn’t won at the RBC Center since 2002. They couldn't do so despite throwing up 46 shots and playing a penalty-free game.
“There is not a good feeling, there is nothing positive to take from tonight,” said coach Peter Laviolette. “It’s gut-wrenching.”
The Canes were 12-2-1 over a 15-game span to hold off the equally red-hot Caps, but lost three of their final four, including games against non-playoff teams Tampa Bay and Florida to put themselves in this playoff predicament.
“It feels disgusting,” said Ray Whitney. “We just needed to win two of our last four and we go 1-3. The loss in Tampa Bay now hurts as much as this one. You hate to sit back and hope that you’re going to get help. We’ve got to hope Florida does the same job tomorrow as they did tonight, but I doubt they will.”
The Canes threw everything they had at the Florida net in the first two periods, amassing 35 shots against Tomas Vokoun and Craig Anderson, who replaced the starter in the second after Vokoun left with back issues, but Carolina put itself in a deep hole by allowing the Panthers to take a pair of two-goal leads.
Then came the frantic third period, in which the Canes outshot a reeling Florida team 11-1, but still couldn’t find the back of the net other than to close within 4-3 with 12:01 left on a power-play goal by Sergei Samsonov.
However, it was a poor power play all night that haunted the Canes. Carolina couldn’t register a shot with the man advantage halfway through the third less than two minutes after pulling within a goal. And didn’t fare much better after Cam Ward was pulled for an extra attacker over the final 1:20.
“Our power play was pretty average tonight and I don’t think we got the best performance out of everybody we needed to,” Whitney said. “As a group we certainly didn’t get enough great performances.”’
Florida’s fourth goal and eventual game winner was a back breaker, coming short-handed in the final 11.6 seconds of the second period after Eric Staal’s 38th of the season five minutes earlier on the power play pulled the Canes to 3-2. Radek Dvorak was able to beat Ward on the far side after spinning around forward Matt Cullen, who was the only Carolina player back on the play.
“The one with 11 seconds left in the period was a tough one to take,” Laviolette said.
Carolina outshot the Panthers 18-5 in the first but found itself trailing 2-1 after 20 minutes.
Trevor Letowski gave the Canes a 1-0 lead 7:25 in when he slipped the puck between the legs of Vokoun from the side of the net. However, two defensive breakdowns led to a pair of Florida goals less than two minutes apart midway through the period.
“We played hard,” said Bret Hedican. “I don’t think we left anything in the dressing room. We left it out there on the ice, which I’m proud to say. It was one of those nights where a couple of their shots went in and on our side they made the save then they had to get it. Hats off to Florida, they played a solid game.
“I would love to be playing some more hockey,” added Hedican. “We worked so dang hard in this room with guys being injured and so many guys have stepped up to the plate. You can’t even look anywhere in this dressing room and not be proud. I’m proud to be associated with this group of guys.”
NOTES: Carolina finished 4-25-2 when trailing after two periods. … Staal was the only player to log 82 games this season and has now played in 254 straight. … Chad LaRose’s assist on the first goal gave him six points in five games since returning from a broken leg. … Carolina played its first penalty-free game since November 1999. … Staal had a game-high 10 shots on goal. … Ward was 5-1 against Florida before this loss. … The Canes finished 19-11-2 against the Southeast Division.
|Trevor Letowski (9) Backhand shot - ASST: Chad LaRose (12)|
1 - 0 CAR
|Jay Bouwmeester (15) Wrist shot - ASST: Radek Dvorak (9), Jozef Stumpel (13)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Steve Montador (8) Wrist shot - ASST: Nathan Horton (35), David Booth (18)|
2 - 1 FLA
|Nathan Horton (27) Wrist shot - ASST: Ville Peltonen (15), Magnus Johansson (14)|
3 - 1 FLA
|PPG - Eric Staal (38) Wrist shot - ASST: Joe Corvo (34), Ray Whitney (35)|
3 - 2 FLA
|SHG - Radek Dvorak (8) Wrist shot - ASST: Gregory Campbell (13), Bryan Allen (14)|
4 - 2 FLA
|PPG - Sergei Samsonov (14) Slapshot - ASST: Ray Whitney (36), Joe Corvo (35)|
4 - 3 FLA
|Radek Dvorak Tripping against Tuomo Ruutu|
|Jassen Cullimore Hooking against Erik Cole|
|Steve Montador Delaying Game-Puck over glass|
|Rostislav Olesz Delaying Game-Puck over glass|
|Karlis Skrastins Closing hand on puck|
|Kamil Kreps Hooking against Scott Walker|
|Kamil Kreps Hi-sticking against Joe Corvo|
|Brett McLean Slashing against Tuomo Ruutu|
|Olli Jokinen Tripping against Tuomo Ruutu|
|SA: 18||TOI: 20:00|
|Saves: 17||EV: 16 - 17|
|PIM: 0||PP: 1 - 1|
|SV%: .944||SH: 0 - 0|
|SA: 28||TOI: 40:00|
|Saves: 26||EV: 19 - 19|
|PIM: 0||PP: 7 - 9|
|SV%: .929||SH: 0 - 0|
|SA: 17||TOI: 58:34|
|Saves: 13||EV: 12 - 15|
|PIM: 0||PP: 0 - 0|
|SV%: .765||SH: 1 - 2|