RALEIGH — The novelty of the shootout wore off a long time ago. The idea that playoff spots are now determined by a glorified skills competition has become increasingly objectionable. Nevertheless, these are the rules of the NHL, and everyone has to play by them.
For the Carolina Hurricanes, that means breaking their own ignominious record as the worst shootout team in NHL history. After Saturday's 3-2 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers, the Hurricanes are 0-6 in the extra period, exceeding the 0-5 mark set by the 2006-07 Hurricanes, who missed the playoffs by four points.
Even Jussi Jokinen, whose 30 shootout goals are tied for the NHL's all-time lead with Pavel Datsyuk, failed to score Saturday. A career 46 percent shooter, he's 2-for-5 this season.
"The shootout, it goes lots with the confidence," Jokinen said. "When you're going good, you're going good. When its not going good, you don't have the confidence and that confidence is always huge in the shootout."
Losing a pair of home games in shootouts, Thursday to the Anaheim Ducks and again Saturday, did immeasurable damage to the Hurricanes' already-slim hopes of a miracle run to the playoffs. If Thursday was painful, Saturday may have been fatal.
Their path to the postseason, twisted, steep and narrow as it may have been, required regulation wins against division opponents. By giving up two goals in the final six minutes, the Hurricanes hurt their own chances almost as badly as a regulation loss would have.
That 2-13 record in overtime, with those six shootout losses, is an anchor holding the Hurricanes to the bottom of the standings.
In Thursday's shootout with Anaheim, Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller even tried Brandon Sutter, whose success on in-game breakaways earlier in the season had fans begging for his inclusion in the shootout. He finally got his chance and failed to score like everyone else, while Jokinen watched from the bench.
Jokinen led off Saturday and fired high. The Hurricanes have scored only three goals on 18 attempts; their goalies have allowed nine on 17 attempts.
"As a team, we need to be better," Jokinen said. "I need to be better, goalies need to be better, our other shooters need to be better. No one has been good in shootouts - not me, not the other shooters."
It was a shame, really, because Justin Peters put together almost 54 minutes of goaltending that deserved a win, if not a shutout. It wasn't always pretty, with rebounds skittering away and Peters scrambling around his crease, but it sure was effective. If Peters hadn't been on his game, the Hurricanes would have been toast in the first period as the Panthers took the first 11 shots of the game. Instead, they took a 2-0 lead on goals from Justin Faulk and Jokinen.
That lead disappeared quickly. As much as the Hurricanes have struggled in overtime this year, the best way to fix that is to win in regulation.
"This a game we need to put away in 60 minutes," Jokinen said.
All the Hurricanes had to do was lock down a two-goal lead with six minutes and change to play. Instead, they ended up playing the NHL's loser-point lottery, and lost again.
email@example.com (919) 829-8947