The games are dwindling and the regular season fast coming to a close for the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Stanley Cup playoffs? That likely will be left to 16 other teams while the Canes, for the seventh straight year, are left on the outside looking in.
Not that they’re going down meekly. The Canes played hard and at times well Saturday against the New York Islanders, only to lose 4-3 in overtime at PNC Arena.
Cal Clutterbuck, whose early third-period goal tied the score 3-3, scored the winner for the Isles. Flinging a shot at the net, the forward had the puck glance off Canes defenseman Jaccob Slavin and past goalie Eddie Lack with 13.8 seconds remaining.
The Canes (32-28-15) trailed 2-0 after the first period, but goals by Victor Rask, Jeff Skinner and Jay McClement in the first eight minutes of the second pushed Carolina ahead. But they couldn’t hold the lead in the third, and picking up one point this late in the season doesn’t do them much good.
“I thought we did a good job in the second, responding after not having the first period we wanted to have,” said Skinner, who scored his 26th. “It’s always tough to lose in OT, especially in the last few seconds.
“Especially this time of year, games are pretty tight and there are not a lot of room for mistakes. You want to come out with two points. You want to win those games.”
With 79 points, the Canes trail the Philadelphia Flyers by six points in the fight for the final wild-card playoff spot. The Flyers played later Saturday at Arizona.
There’s also the matter of the Detroit Red Wings and New Jersey Devils, both ahead of the Canes in the Eastern Conference standings. The Devils face the Hurricanes on Sunday at PNC Arena.
The Canes, who have 11 overtime losses this season, had chances in the OT. Jordan Staal, Justin Faulk and Noan Hanifin all got off good shots, Hanifin catching a post.
The Islanders (40-25-9), beaten 7-4 by Tampa Bay on Friday, controlled most of the first period, getting an early goal from Kyle Okposo and a late one on a breakaway by Nikolay Kulemin. But the Canes were much sharper in the second, dominating the faceoff circle and bringing the puck cleaner through the neutral zone while putting 19 shots on goalie Jean-Francois Berube.
Rask scored his 18th after Chris Terry kept the puck alive in front of the net. Skinner tied it after Riley Nash won a faceoff in the Isles zone, first faking a shot from the slot and then darting in to score in the middle of another scrum in front of the net.
McClement did it again to give the Canes a 3-2 lead, following up a Ryan Murphy shot that Berube fumbled.
Skinner, focused and intense all game, had seven of the Canes’ 36 shots.
“I thought he was dynamic, thought he was dangerous,” Canes coach Bill Peters said of Skinner. “He was involved in a lot of good plays.”
Forward Patrick Brown, recalled Friday from the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL, gave the Canes some heavy, effective play, winning some board battles.
“There are some guys who have more to offer,” Peters said. “There are guys who can play better. They need to finish strong.”