Jets 4, Hurricanes 3 (OT)

Hurricanes' playoff hopes die in 4-3 OT loss to Jets

Ladd burns old team in OT

calexander@newsobserver.comMarch 31, 2012 

— Time has run out on the Carolina Hurricanes.

Not games. The Canes still have four games to play. But for the third straight season, the Hurricanes will not be a part of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Overtime losses have haunted the Hurricanes all season, and another Friday ended their ever-so-slim playoff hopes. Andrew Ladd’s goal just 16 seconds into the extra period gave the Winnipeg Jets a 4-3 win at PNC Arena.

The Hurricanes (31-31-16) went into Friday’s game with 77 points, nine behind the eighth-place Buffalo Sabres and Washington Capitals in the NHL’s Eastern Conference. They were a team at the brink, needing a victory – and some help – to stay alive.

The Sabres were beaten 5-3 by the Pittsburgh Penguins. But the Hurricanes, even with four wins to close the regular season, can’t match the Caps in the regulation wins – a playoff tiebreaker – and will miss the playoffs for the third straight season.

All the Canes can do now is play out the season and point to next season, beginning with tonight’s home game against the New Jersey Devils.

“It’s difficult,” Canes captain Eric Staal said. “Any time you’re where we’re at in our season, you just have to come to the rink and work. We’ll continue to compete and work.”

That the Hurricanes’ playoff fate was decided in overtime almost seemed fitting. Their 16 overtime losses – six in shootouts – and 3-16 record resulted in far too many points given away.

“Sometimes, it goes that way in shootouts and overtime, but we have to be accountable,” Canes defenseman Jay Harrison said. “We have skill. As a group, we could have been better.”

But this game could have been won by Carolina before overtime. The Canes had a 3-1 lead in the second period, getting even-strength goals from Derek Joslin and Brandon Sutter and a shorthanded score from Staal that had the sellout crowd standing and roaring.

Late in the first period, Staal stole the puck from the Jets’ Blake Wheeler near the blue line. Staal stopped in the low slot and beat goalie Chris Mason with a spinning shot for his 24th goal of the season and third “shortie.”

“We had a 3-1 lead on a team that didn’t look like it had a lot of life and let them hang around, and you never know what can happen,” Staal said.

Both goaltenders, Cam Ward of the Canes and Mason, were put to the test throughout the game. Mason made a sharp glove save on a Sutter shot with about a minute left in regulation and Ward denied Wheeler on a stuff attempt with five seconds remaining.

But Ladd, who helped the Canes win the 2006 Stanley Cup, won it quickly in overtime by beating Ward. The 25th goal of the season by the Jets’ captain ended a three-game losing streak by Winnipeg and kept its playoff chances barely alive.

A year ago, the Canes were 11-11 in overtimes and shootouts. Why so poor this season?

“If we had the answer we’d fix it,” Canes forward Jeff Skinner said. “The tough thing about OT is one bounce here, one bounce there, can decide the game.”

The Hurricanes didn’t get that bounce Friday. They’ll now have a long time to think about answers before next season.

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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