The Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes both had their playoff hopes take a major hit on Sunday, but the losses occurred in completely different ways.
Florida (31-29-11) concluded a three-game road trip in Pittsburgh with a 4-0 loss to the Penguins on Sunday behind the 10th career hat trick by star center Sidney Crosby and a 21-save effort by goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
Carolina (30-27-13) is 5-2-3 in the past 10 games after losing 4-3 in overtime at Philadelphia on Sunday.
The Panthers return to South Florida to host the Hurricanes on Tuesday at BB&T Center.
Florida’s whitewashing at the hands of the reigning Stanley Cup champions was painful. The Panthers earned a tough 4-3 win the night before over the New York Rangers after a game-winning shootout goal by center Aleksander Barkov.
The loss left Florida interim head coach Tom Rowe in a state of reflection, wondering what next year held for a club that many felt would be in the postseason this season after an active free-agency period and multiple trades.
“We have a lot of good pieces. It’s just we have to re-evaluate when the season’s over. … These are the days when it really feels painful,” Rowe told NHL.com after the shutout loss.
Since the Panthers’ 2-1 decision over St. Louis on Feb. 20 — a victory that capped a team-record five-win road trip — the club has recorded just three wins and one overtime loss in its last 13 games.
Those seven points out of a possible 26 all but decimated Florida’s playoff chances.
No. 1 goaltender Roberto Luongo remains out with a lower-body injury, turning over all the starting duties to backup James Reimer. Trade-deadline acquisition Thomas Vanek has been a solid addition, recording seven points (goal, six assists) in nine games while averaging 13:32 of time on ice.
Florida center Vincent Trocheck, a Pittsburgh native, was disappointed by his team’s performance in his hometown.
“I’m hoping we can turn things around and play the right way just for our team for the future,” he told the Sun Sentinel.
Carolina is in a similar situation to Florida, but the Hurricanes hold a game in hand over the Panthers.
The loss in Philadelphia was a hard one for the Hurricanes to absorb. Elias Lindholm, Jeff Skinner and Jordan Staal helped Carolina to a 3-2 lead in the final minute, but Philadelphia’s Travis Konecny tied the game with 42.9 seconds remaining.
Brayden Schenn then scored 38 seconds into overtime to hamper Carolina’s playoff chances, too, as the team failed to earn an all-important second point on the road when victory was in sight.
“It’s never a fun way to lose when you’re up with 30 seconds to go,” said Staal, whose scored a power-play goal with 8:11 remaining in regulation to give the Hurricanes a lead. “It’s nice to get a point, but it would have been better with two.”
South Florida is the second stop on the team’s four-game road trip. The Hurricanes will finish up with games in Montreal and New Jersey this week.