Hurricanes get 6-5 shootout win over Flyers to end the season

calexander@newsobserver.comApril 13, 2014 

— That the Carolina Hurricanes won Sunday in their last game of the season wasn't that meaningful.

The Hurricanes aren't going to the playoffs and nothing can ease that disappointment.

Jeff Skinner and Eric Staal each scored a pair of goals for the Hurricanes, and Staal's shootout goal beat the Philadelphia Flyers 6-5 at the Wells Fargo Center.

Skinner's power-play goal with 4:21 left in regulation helped the Canes regain the lead 5-4 after the Flyers had rallied from a 4-1 deficit. But Wayne Simmonds' second goal of the game, with 9.5 seconds showing, tied it 5-5.

It was on to overtime, then the shootout. Staal was the only player to score in the shootout.

Carolina closed the season with two straight road wins and a 36-35-11 record, but will not play in the Stanley Cup playoffs for a fifth straight season.

While it's better to win than to lose, it's what comes next for the Hurricanes -- likely changes, large and small -- that will have a lot more meaning.

The Hurricanes players now will go through their exit interviews early this week. How many will return next season is anyone's guess.

Decisions need to be made on free agents. Trades could be considered.

"It's not anything we as players really have control over," Skinner said. "We realize it's part of the game, part of the business. It's part of what goes on when goals are not achieved and things don't go the way you want them to."

Jim Rutherford is expected to retire after 20 years as the team's general manager. Ron Francis, now vice president of hockey operations, is expected to succeed him.

Team owner Peter Karmanos Jr. has indicated there may not be big changes to the team. Again, it's hard to say what that could mean.

Canes' captain Eric Staal hopes the changes are minimal, believing the core of the team can continue to develop and lead the Canes back to the playoffs.

"We've got good players, we've got young players that are still gaining experience and getting better," Staal said last week. "But obviously those decisions are made from up top and that's not my job."

Staal picked up his 20th and 21st goals of what has been an up-and-down season Sunday. Skinner ripped an early shot past Heeter for his 32nd, topping his career high of 31 set as a rookie in 2010-2011, then added the power-play goal.

Manny Malhotra also scored for the Canes, who led 3-1 after the first and 4-1 early in the second, making things uncomfortable for rookie goalie Calvin Heeter, who was making his NHL debut.

But the Flyers rallied in the second period, making things uncomfortable for Canes goalie Anton Khudobin. Kimmo Timonen's power-play goal and Wayne Simmonds' even-strength score 10 seconds after it awakened slumbering Flyers fans, and Sean Couturier tied it 4-4 on a breakaway.

For the first half of the game, the Flyers appeared to have their minds on the start of the playoffs this week, and a first-round series with the New York Rangers. In the final 30 minutes, they seemed intent on winning their last regular-season game.

Skinner went top-shelf early in the game, blistering a shot past Heeter from the right circle. Staal then picked up his 20th of the season on a shot from the left circle.

Malhotra's goal, also on a shot from the left circle, was his seventh and first since scoring twice against Ottawa on Jan. 25.

Matt Read scored for the Flyers, going unchecked in the slot to beat Khudobin. But Staal's second pushed the Canes ahead 4-1.

Staal picked off a pass in the slot with 20 seconds left in the first and had a point-blank shot, but Heeter responded with his best save of the period. But Staal beat him early in the second.

Flyers goalie Steve Mason was injured Saturday against Pittsburgh ,and Flyers coach Craig Berube opted to go with the 25-year-old Heeter than start veteran Ray Emery. Heeter was recalled from the Adirondack Phantoms, where he has posted a 16-25-2.

Emery began to limber up in the tunnel behind the bench after Heeter's allowed the fourth goal. But he never left the bench to enter the game.

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

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