Less than 24 hours after dropping a 5-3 home decision to the Flyers, the Carolina Hurricanes avoided a season sweep at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning with a 3-2 win. Both teams had already been eliminated from the playoffs.
But on Saturday night, the Hurricanes glumly packed up their equipment bags after yet another home defeat, preparing to fly to Tampa that night. First, though, they fielded questions from the media and got to relive some of the more painful sequences of the game, doing their best to explain why things went so wrong at the worst moments. As much as that is possible.
For example, Riley Nash tipped it off the post and the Flyers recovered, racing down the ice quickly on a breakaway for a goal to go up 5-3. Seconds after it looked like the Hurricanes (18-24-3) were going to tie the game, they found themselves down two goals.
Just like that.
“It’s sometimes pretty frustrating to watch when you see bounces go the other way all that often,” Nash said. “On (the Flyers’) fifth goal, I tip one off the post, he goes across the goal line, they shoot it off the boards and they guy gets a nice bounce right into the middle of the ice for a breakaway. It’s tough to watch.”
And really, that sequence is par for the course for the Hurricanes this season, particularly in this recent stretch. The Sunday win at Tampa Bay marked the Hurricanes’ first road win since March 12. The Hurricanes are a paltry 3-15-2 since March 13 — just 2-9-1 in April.
Any time a pro franchise puts itself out of playoff contention, fans start to talk about draft positioning. In theory, any win hurts the Hurricanes in terms of the NHL Draft on June 30. That’s not how this team approaches things, though. It’s just not in their makeup. Even during this stretch, the team has played hard for the most part — the hockey gods have just not been smiling on them, as it were.
Young star Jeff Skinner, who has had his share of troubles this year after a concussion kept him out for awhile in February, feels like there’s plenty to gain for this team finishing the season strong.
“I think we just want to play the right way. We’ve got a lot of guys in here, character guys, that want to play for each other,” Skinner said. “That’s the biggest thing is not playing the wrong way and cheating. I think just play the right way and that’s about it.”
Saturday kicked off Fan Appreciation Week in PNC Arena. The loss was the Hurricanes’ ninth in their last ten home games, and while plenty of Hurricanes fans showed up, the arena was very nearly overrun by Flyers fans.
There are two more home games left this season (which will both be during Fan Appreciation Week), and the diehard Hurricanes fans are part of what’s keeping this team going.
“I don’t think it’s that hard (to keep playing) at all. These guys are all competitive guys. They’re pros,” Nash said. “You have to do it, or else that’s not doing justice to the fans that come out and support us every night. We really appreciate them, so we try to go out there and give it our best effort and show we appreciate them.”