Seven years ago, the Carolina Hurricanes faced the Tampa Bay Lightning in game 82 at PNC Arena knowing that a win would earn them a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They then proceeded to go out and lay an egg, spotting the Lightning four goals on their way to a 6-2 laugher that was as close as the Canes have come to the playoffs since 2009.
Despite not having the same stakes, it didn’t take long for Saturday’s game at PNC Arena to prove that it wouldn’t follow the same script. Jordan Staal scored 19 seconds into the game, Elias Lindholm finished the job with an overtime goal 49 seconds into the extra period, and the Canes closed out the 2017-18 season with a 3-2 overtime win over the Lightning.
Staal’s goal, on the game’s opening shift, was a fluke, a centering pass that deflected off the skate of Lightning defenseman Ondrej Palat and into the net past Louis Domingue for the co-captain’s 19th goal of the season. Justin Williams picked up an assist, extending his point streak to three straight games.
Williams then doubled the Canes’ lead with 2:24 to go in the first in controversial fashion. Off a rebound from no angle, Williams somehow found a sliver of the net with Domingue down on the ice and unable to position himself. The Lightning challenged for goalie interference, but the ruling was that Dan Girardi pushed Phil Di Giuseppe into Domingue and thus the goal counted.
At no point, though, did the Canes give the impression that they were going to run away with the game. Shots in the first were 14-12 for Carolina and the Lightning had ample opportunity to put Cam Ward to work. They finally got on the scoresheet 3:30 into the second period on Ryan Callahan’s shot from the far circle that deflected off Klas Dahlbeck and may have also grazed Valentin Zykov’s stick for a deflection that Ward had little chance to save.
The Lightning were coming in waves to end the period, but Ward stood tall, denying Cedric Paquette after a turnover left him all alone in the slot and J.T. Miller in the final seconds of the period. He then made his best save of the night on Alex Killorn eight minutes into the third, shutting the winger down as he let one rip in full flight just inside the near circle.
With just under nine minutes to go, Palat got his revenge to tie the game. Left all alone in the near circle as Trevor van Riemsdyk got caught looking at the puck and not his man, Palat uncorked a one-timer that blew through Ward and into the back of the net, giving the Lightning an opening to clinch the Atlantic Division.
A minute later, Staal nearly gave the Canes the lead again, using Di Giuseppe as a decoy on a 2-on-1 and just missing sneaking the puck under Domingue’s shoulder. Ward then had to fend off a bouncing puck from Paquette, getting his left pad barely on the puck to kick it out with two minutes to go to keep it a tie game, and we went to overtime because of course we did.
Forty-nine seconds into overtime, Elias Lindholm took a cross-ice pass from Teuvo Teravainen and roofed it over Domingue, giving the Canes two points and forcing everyone to wait until tomorrow to find out the playoff pairings in the Eastern Conference.
They Said It
Good effort throughout. Got off to an early lead, got contributions throughout. Pretty good night for [Roy’s] debut, 11 minutes, 60% on faceoffs, drew two penalties. Not a bad debut. When we won, guys are going to celebrate and he’s one of the first guys off the bench. The two points are the most important things for him.
[On the new guys:] They don’t bring much in the locker room. They’re pretty quiet. But there’s enough guys that lead in the locker room that they can learn from. But on the ice they’ve been good. [McKeown] has settled in. Z’s up to ten games, had a real good start and has been steady. It’s back to back years for our organization at the AHL level to be in the playoffs. Lots of picks there that have been made over the last few years that are real players. That’s encouraging.
There’s lots of positives, there’s negatives obviously also, but the young guys have been good. And down below there’s more. Lots of pieces coming, but what I like is that they have NHL games. There’s a lot of good guys.
We start our organizational meetings tomorrow. I don’t know [Ward’s] final numbers, but his numbers were pretty solid.
Thoughts and prayers to Humboldt and to the hockey community. I have some phone calls to return to some people I know up in that area. Stay strong and rally around these people.
It was really fun. When I got the call I was just excited, and it was a great day. I felt really good with the guys here. It was really fun. Really great day. I just tried to work hard and keep it simple, and I felt like I did a good job.
I made the step already this year in the AHL turning pro, but it’s even faster in the NHL compared to the AHL. I just kept it simple.
[Told that the Checkers won:] Oh yeah? No I didn’t hear. That’s really fun. The guys are doing well lately and it’s really fun to hear we’re going into the playoffs.
I thought the effort was there all night. They’re going to get their looks and get their chances, but if I made the save, our guys were there to help bail me out. It’s disappointing, obviously we wanted to be in the playoffs and we were expecting big things out of our club this year and felt short, but today we can enjoy ending the right way and on a good note.
Last time I checked, we’re still getting paid to play. Guys have to have pride, and if you put on the jersey you have to go out there and play the right way despite the situation you’re in. It’s tough. I wish we were a little more upbeat and talking about us going into the playoffs. This team was a lot of fun to play with. We had such a good group of guys. It made it fun to come to the rink.
I’m sure I’m going to assess things in the next couple of days and think things through, and go from there, but I was pleased with my game tonight. I’m going to try to enjoy this one. Happy that my son can come in here and create some chaos for the last time this year.
[Have you thought about your future?] Most definitely. I’m human, right? I’ve been here for 13 years and it’s no secret that my contract is up. The uncertainty and the unknown of what’s going to happen is scary at times. I try to control what I can control. It was a different world for me this year. I love playing with Scott, he’s a great guy, and we were hoping we were going to be the tandem to get us to the playoffs. It didn’t happen, and that’s disappointing for him and me.
It’s a horrific tragedy. I can remember playing tournaments in Humboldt. I was born in Saskatoon. It hit home. You feel for the families and the kids. You never want to hear anything like that. Our thoughts and prayers are with everybody in Humboldt. A lot of my great memories are riding the bus, playing in Red Deer, ten-hour trips. You take life for granted sometimes. It can be over in a switch. It puts things into perspective. It’s extremely sad.
It was a fun game. Obviously it didn’t mean too much, a kind of up and down game, but it’s always nice to get a win against good teams, so we’ll take that and hopefully everyone works hard in the summer and comes back winning like we did tonight.
You can always take positives out of some things. Obviously with the young group we have we’re still learning. The Finns had a great season, you can see the potential there and the excitement they bring every night. We’re going to continue to build our group, hopefully keep adding players and keep working together to be a tough team to play against every night.
- Really weird ending to the press conference. Peters took a question about Ward, answered it, launched right into a statement about the Humboldt tragedy, and walked off the dais without taking any more questions. We were somewhat dumbfounded at the whole situation. Not sure what to take away from it, other than to say that it was really, really awkward.
- Roy’s final line: 10:46 of ice time (all even strength), one shot, two hits, 60% faceoffs, -1. Not a bad line at all. His eyes lit up when he was told the Checkers had won and were in the playoffs.
- Haydn Fleury didn’t score - again - and that’s 66 games without a goal, although he did set up the game winner. He’s the first Canes player to play at least 60 games without scoring since Tim Gleason in 2008-09, although it should be stated that Gleason scored a goal in the 2009 playoffs. Frantisek Kaberle in 2007-08 is the only other player to score zero goals while playing at least 60 since relocation. (The franchise all-time leader is Steve Halko, who played 166 games with the Canes without lighting the lamp, so Fleury’s got a long way to go to reach that mark.)
- If you missed it, the Checkers won 7-3 tonight, clinching a spot in the Calder Cup playoffs for the second straight season. The Canes assigned Fleury, Roy, Zykov and McKeown to the Checkers after the game as they enter the final week of their season.
- Congratulations to the Canes’ ironmen, of whom there are four: Jaccob Slavin, Teuvo Teravainen, Justin Williams and Jeff Skinner all played every game this season. Slavin’s consecutive-games streak now stands at 221, but he has a long way to go to catch Eric Staal, at 349 the leader since relocation, or Dave Tippett, who is atop the franchise recordbook at 419.
- The players will meet the media on Monday, followed by Tom Dundon doing so. Bill Peters’ end-of-season press conference will be later in the week, presumably Wednesday although nothing is confirmed yet.
Rank the Performances
Here’s your chance to weigh in on how you think the team performed tonight. Upvote the players you think played well and downvote the ones who didn’t.