The Carolina Hurricanes had the Ottawa Senators right where they wanted them. The visitors were up 3-2 with less than a minute left in the game and reliable veterans, Eric Staal, Erik Cole, and Ray Whitney were on the ice.
But suddenly the vets were making mistakes that rookies are taught not to make. With 30 ticks left, Erik Cole had a chance to skate the puck out of his zone, or at least clear it, and he did neither. He circled the puck back into his zone and the Sens continued their attack.
With 15 seconds left, Ray Whitney did the unthinkable as he skated the puck 10 feet short of center ice and rifled it in the Ottawa zone. Was he shooting at the open net? Did he panic? Regardless, after the icing call, Eric Staal lost the ensuing faceoff cleanly to Jason Spezza and Erik Karlsson put a shot on goal that hit Manny Legace in the glove and went in the net, tying the score with 7.7 seconds on the clock.
The goal gave the Senators life and clinched a playoff spot for them, but it put a dagger in the heart of the Hurricanes as they went on to lose in a shootout, 4-3.
Ottawa started the scoring off on another late goal in the opening period, this one by Anton Volchenkov as he ripped one by Legace with just 12 seconds left in the period. There was a breakdown of sorts in the Carolina zone as the defenseman was wide open for his shot.
The Hurricanes had actually played a good opening period and matched Ottawa shot for shot.
The second period was all Carolina as they took a 2-1 lead off shots by Jamie McBain and Chad LaRose. McBain's goal was his third goal in 10 games now for the big club as he has a total of seven points and is +5 so far in his young career.
A bit later in the period, Eric Staal set up LaRose with a nice pass and the winger beat Brian Elliott cleanly for his eighth of the season.
After Erik Karlsson tied the score early in the third period with his first goal of the game, the Hurricanes dominated most of the rest of the period and had several chances to put the game away. Brandon Sutter would finally light the lamp as he threw a puck toward the net which bounced past Elliott after it hit a Sens defenseman.
But it was not meant to be as everything that could go wrong in the last minute, did go wrong.
Neither team could score in the overtime period and Ottawa beat the Canes easily in the shootout as neither Whitney, nor Jussi Jokinen could put a puck on net with their attempts, as they shot either high or wide.
Alex Kovalev scored on the first attempt for Ottawa and after Legace stopped Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza won the game as he deked out Legace for the final tally.
In other games in the East, the teams below Carolina won and the teams directly above them lost. On a night which all the other games in the East were falling their way, the team could not take advantage of their opportunity.
The Canes will fly home for a match with the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night.
- Even though he lost the the most important one, Eric Staal led the team by winning 61% of his faceoffs, (14-23). Brandon Sutter was at 50% on this night, (9-18).
- Staal also had a team high five shots on goal.
- Joni Pitkanen played over 33 minutes and had a game high 8 blocked shots. In this back-to-back with Montreal and Ottawa, the defenseman had almost 65 minutes of ice time.
- Carolina was credited with 24 hits led by Drayson Bowman with four.
- All in all it was a good road trip for the team as they came away with five of six points, but it's tough to swallow how they squandered the point that got away.