The Carolina Hurricanes dropped their final home game of the season Thursday, losing 4-3 in overtime to the New York Rangers. Jiri Tlusty scored twice — again — and the Rangers clinched a spot in the playoffs with the win.
Thursday night offered a celebration of hockey history, with three of the four Staal brothers playing together for the Carolina Hurricanes. But it ended as so many games have for the Canes this season: with a loss. Jiri Tlusty’s two goals were enough to help the Hurricanes earn one point, but Rangers captain Ryan Callahan spoiled this season's PNC Arena finale with an overtime game-winner, giving New York a 4-3 win. Here's a closer look at Thursday’s loss.
1. The third period tripping penalty on Tuomo Ruutu was a brutal call that allowed the Rangers to capitalize on the power play and tie the game at 3 in the third period. Furthermore, the way the goal went in — off the end boards, then off the back of Dan Ellis’s skate and into the net — added some salt to the wound. As has happened many times this season, Carolina deserved better.
2. Jeff Skinner's audition at center has been positive. The question now is whether or not that's a legitimate home for the dynamic forward in 2013-14. If the Hurricanes land a ready-now, top-six winger at the NHL Draft, then maybe having Skinner on the third line makes sense. But if the Canes wind up with an overmatched winger with Jordan Staal and Ruutu on the second line, is paying Skinner an average of $5.725 million over the next six seasonsto be a third line center with extensive power play time wise?
3. Who knows if Jared Staal will ever make it back to the NHL after this season, but for one night the youngest of the four Staal brothers looked right at home in name and performance. Jared led all Carolina forwards with five hits and played a smart game in his Hurricanes debut. Is he a future All-Star like his three older brothers? No, probably not. But his combination of size and determination could make many — myself included — reassess if he has a future in the Canes’ bottom six.
Number To Know
2 — Hurricanes who will finish the season as point-per game players. Eric Staal (51 points through 47 games) and Alexander Semin (44 points in 44 games, and will miss the season finale) are the most recent Carolina players to reach that mark since the franchise moved to North Carolina. The other two times were both in the Stanley Cup-winning 2005-06 season, when Staal registered 100 points in 82 games, and Cory Stillman had 76 points in 72 games. No other Hurricanes player has played the majority of the season and averaged a point or more a game.
Jiri Tlusty — It will be hard for Tlusty to replicate the season he's had. After scoring twice (for an NHL-best ninth time this season), he is now fifth in the NHL in goals (23), tied for first in even-strength goals (19), and has an amazing 20.2 shooting percentage. A slew of players have better than 20 percent shooting percentages this season, but in the three years prior only two — Calgary's Curtis Glencross last season with 26 goals, and Nashville's Sergei Kostitsyn with 23 goals in 2010-11 — cracked that mark while playing enough games to qualify. The good news? Even if Tlusty scores at a 15 percent clip next season, he should be around 30 goals if he's healthy and registers a similar number of shots on net per game. A side note: only one player in the NHL has a 100 percent shooting percentage — Chris Terry, who scored on thus far his only career shot in his NHL debut March 9 vs. New Jersey.
Nicolas Blanchard — After being noticeable just about every shift in his first seven game, Blanchard was invisible Thursday. He finished with no hits in more than eight minutes and hasn't been made as much of an impact of late as resident tough guy Kevin Westgarth.