The last game of the season opened with a bang on Saturday night, as Jordan Staal scored just nineteen seconds in. The goal bounced off Tampa Bay Lightning’s Ondrej Palat and gave the Carolina Hurricanes a jolt for the first few minutes of the period before Tampa settled in. Once they did, the Canes looked like they were chasing after Tampa for the first half of the period.
Towards the second ten minutes, however, the Hurricanes looked much better than they have in a while. Justin Williams wristed the puck into the net while Tampa goalie Louis Domingue was on his back. Lightning coach Jon Cooper challenged this goal for goalie interference. However, the situation room in Toronto determined that Tampa’s Dan Girardi was the one responsible for shoving Phil di Giuseppe into the net and ruled it a good goal. Goalie interference calls have been the source of much debate this season, and it was nice to see that this call went relatively smoothly after the recent revision of the NHL rulebook.
Cam Ward’s shutout bid was broken four minutes into the second period when he was screened by both Klas Dahlbeck and Tampa’s Cedric Paquette for a Ryan Callahan goal. This goal turned the tide in Tampa’s favor after the Canes came storming out of the gate. Haydn Fleury got a penalty for interference on Callahan, but Carolina’s penalty kill held its own against the NHL’s third-best power play.
Newcomer Nicolas Roy drew a penalty on Slater Koekkoek a few minutes later, and the Hurricanes power play unit went to work. Despite the Lightning’s 28th-ranked penalty kill, the Canes couldn’t get any shots through. They generated just one shot on goal during the entire two minute sequence. As soon as the power play ended, the Lightning pressed hard, forcing Ward to come up with some key saves to ensure that Carolina went into the intermission with the lead.
The third period was full of chippy, hard-hitting, 200-foot play. Paquette was shaken up by a puck to the ear but stayed in the game. Ward made a few more good saves, but it wasn’t enough to bail his team out. Sebastian Aho had to go to the bench for a new stick and left the Canes on what effectively amounted to a penalty kill. Palat took full advantage of this and fired a one-timer to tie the game. Despite a hard push at the end of the period by the Canes, the go-ahead goal did not come for either team.
The Canes dominated the entire minute of overtime. Jaccob Slavin had a good chance thirty seconds in, but Domingue came through in the clutch. It didn’t matter, though, because a few seconds later Elias Lindholm snapped the puck in to win it in overtime.
Aho was named MVP of the team for the season with a team-leading 29 goals in his sophomore season. The Canes finish the season with a 36-35-11 record, 14-points behind the second Wild Card spot in the East. Time for the offseason, folks.
- Our hearts are with the Humboldt Broncos, a Junior A team in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. On the way to a playoff game against the Nipawin Hawks on Friday evening, their team bus was T-boned, killing 15 of the 29 people on board and injuring the remaining 14. The Canes honored the Broncos with a moment of silence and a rendition of “O Canada” before Saturday’s game. Hockey is a family, and the entire community is standing together in the wake of this terrible tragedy. The official GoFundMe has already received $2.5 million as of midnight Saturday. If you have some spare change, please consider a donation. We’re with you, Humboldt.
- Brock McGinn sat out Saturday’s game with a concussion. The hit that caused the injury occurred on Monday against the Florida Panthers, but McGinn did not develop symptoms until after Thursday’s game against Philadelphia. Di Giuseppe slotted in for him on Staal’s wing, garnering assists on the first and second goals of the night.
- Nicolas Roy, drafted in the fourth round in 2015, made his NHL debut on Saturday. He had a few good looks in the first period and drew two penalties. It’s good to see him getting a taste of the big leagues before returning to Charlotte for the Calder Cup playoffs.