Carolina Hurricanes drop home finale with 5-2 loss to the Capitals

calexander@newsobserver.comApril 10, 2014 

— The Carolina Hurricanes players stayed on the ice for a few moments and raised their sticks in salute Thursday after their last home game of the season.

A nice gesture, one that usually elicits more enthusiasm and cheers from Canes fans at PNC Arena.

But on this night, there was little to cheer. The Canes were beaten 5-2 by the Washington Capitals in a game that had little significance and even less intensity.

Both teams were eliminated from Stanley Cup playoff contention this week, leaving little to play for Thursday. The Canes insisted they wanted to play well for their fans, but it didn’t happen.

The Caps got the early jump on a goal by Joel Ward barely a minute into the game and were in control as goaltender Braden Holtby had 36 saves and the line of Ward, Eric Fehr and Jason Chimera combined for three goals and six assists.

“They got the early jump, but at the same time we didn’t have any jump,” Canes center Jordan Staal said. “It was pretty dead from our team for the most part.”

Asked why the team would be “dead” in the last home game, Staal said, “That’s a good question. I don’t know.”

Canes goalie Anton Khudobin, who has had a good season but had a mostly miserable night, said the team had “run out of gas” and were emotionally flat after Tuesday’s road loss to the New York Rangers, which ended the Canes’ hopes of reaching the playoffs. For the fifth straight year, there will be no Stanley Cup playoff games for the Hurricanes (34-35-11).

But the Caps (37-30-11) also were dealing with disappointment. For the first time since the 2006-2007 season, Washington will not be in the playoffs, being officially eliminated Wednesday night by the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets.

“It wasn’t a good game overall,” Canes coach Kirk Muller said. “To me it looked like two teams that in the last couple of days were mathematically out of the playoffs – just a sloppy game.

“For our last game at home we were hoping for more. … We looked deflated.”

Jiri Tlusty, returning from an injury, had a shorthanded goal for the Canes in the second period, and Radek Dvorak scored an even-strength goal late in regulation. Carolina outshot the Caps 38-21, throwing 15 shots at Holtby in the third.

“For the most part this year I thought the guys pushed, and I don’t think there’s any quit in them,” Muller said. “But tonight was the first game of the fact of not going to the playoffs, (and) we didn’t have the energy you need to win a hockey game.”

Chimera, Fehr and Ward weren’t lacking energy, each finishing with a goal and two assists. Troy Brouwer added two goals for the Caps, who led 1-0 after the first and 3-1 after two in winning their third straight on the road.

Brouwer’s first goal came with 35 seconds left in the second period, pushing Washington to the 3-1 lead. Fehr and Brouwer scored in the first four minutes of the third for a 5-1 margin, and some Canes fans soon were heading home.

The Canes close the season with road games at Detroit on Friday and Philadelphia on Sunday. Their final home record was 18-17-6.

“I feel bad for the fans who were here tonight,” Canes captain Eric Staal said. “They came out to support us and we appreciated those who stayed to the end and applauded us. It hasn’t been easy for them. It hasn’t been easy for me personally for five years.”

Alexander: 919-829-8945; Twitter: @ice_chip

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