RALEIGH — Next season, the Carolina Hurricanes and Philadelphia Flyers will be divisional rivals under the NHL's new conference alignment.
Who knows, an April game may mean something then.
On Saturday, the Canes and Fyers were two teams playing in the final throes of what has been a disappointing season for both. Neither will be a part of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Flyers, for their part, put in a strong effort. Wayne Simmonds notched his first career hat trick and added an assist -- off a blocked shot -- in a 5-3 victory.
The Hurricanes picked up goals from Jeff Skinner in the first period, defenseman Justin Faulk in the second and Eric Staal in the third. But the Canes (17-24-3) never led, were outshot 38-29, beaten in puck battles and undone by defensive mistakes.
"I think it was the first game in a long time that I was disappointed with the effort and commitment from our guys," Canes coach Kirk Muller said. "We've been praising them for a while and they've been going hard and playing hard and not getting the results. But tonight I was disappointed some of the guys did not compete at the level we want them to."
Simmonds scored twice in the second period as the Flyers took a 3-2 lead. Early in the third, his shortside shot squeezed past Canes goalie Justin Peters at the post for his third goal, bringing a few caps and hats onto the ice from the many Flyers fans in the crowd.
Staal pulled the Canes within 4-3 with his 18th goal of the season, off the rebound of a Jiri Tlusty shot. A few minutes later, the Canes' Tuomo Ruutu got off a shot that hit the post.
Simmonds then blocked a shot by Canes defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron, the puck bouncing out to Matt Read for a breakaway. Read's goal pushed the Flyers' lead to 5-3.
"The hockey gods don't like us a lot right now," Canes forward Kevin Westgarth said. "But you've got to work through that. It's hockey."
Aggressive forechecking by Westgarth and the Canes' fourth line resulted in Faulk's goal. Westgarth made a nice play at the blue line to keep the puck in the zone, forward Nicolas Blanchard went to the front of the net to screen Flyers goalie Steve Mason and Faulk unloaded his shot from the point to tie the score 2-2.
Faulk, playing his 100th career game at age 21, earned his fifth goal of the season, Westgarth's assist was his first point of the season.
"That's kind of what we need, that energy and those kind of shifts from our fourth line and our third line," Westgarth said. "Physical play, cause havoc."
Skinner's goal in the first came when defenseman Tim Gleason pressured the Flyers' Daniel Briere along the boards. Briere's attempted pass wound up near Skinner, who took a golf-swing whack at the puck in the circle to beat Mason and tie the score 1-1.
"I just kind of closed my eyes and swung at it," Skinner said.
Simmonds gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead almost two minutes into the second, catching the Canes in a poor line change as Matt Read picked up the assist.
Read had a goal and two assists for the Flyers (20-22-3), who set up numerous odd-man rushes. Simmonds and Read both were plus-4 for the game.
"I think we gave them too many opportunities," Skinner said. "They're a skilled team. They're going to score on those."
Simmonds' second goal came as he jumped off the bench on a line change, skated in unchecked and ripped a shot from the right circle.
Skinner has scored three goals in his past four games, but was held out of the Winnipeg game Thursday after taking a big hit from Ottawa defenseman Jared Cowen on Tuesday.
The Flyers controlled the first 10 minutes of the game, peppering Peters with shots. Jakub Voracek nearly scored 14 seconds into the game, the puck stopping inches short of the goal line.
Voracek then scored seven minutes into the game, his 20th, taking a stretch pass from Claude Giroux for a breakaway. Peters, making his seventh straight start in net, faced 19 shots in the first period.
The Hurricanes left after the game for a road game Sunday against Tampa Bay. That will be Carolina's final Southeast Division game.
"We want to play the right way," Skinner said. "We've got a lot of character guys and want to play for each other."
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