Carolina Hurricane Hockey Team Metropolitan Division

Hurricanes Fall Short In Home Finale, Drop 4-2 Decision To Montreal

If Thursday was Cam Ward’s final home game at PNC Arena, it probably wasn’t how he envisioned his Raleigh sendoff.

Montreal captain Max Pacioretty had a goal and an assist and goaltender Charlie Lindberg — making his NHL debut — led the Canadiens, a team that started the season looking like a Stanley Cup-favorite and finished out of the playoffs, in the 4-2 win over Carolina (35-30-16, 85 points).

Ward, playing his 605th career regular season or playoff game with the team, struggled with both his rebound control and spotty coverage in front of him in Carolina’s 2015-16 home finale.

“We looked hesitant, we looked a little bit slow and indecisive with the puck,” Carolina head coach Bill Peters said. “So we want to make sure we’re able to play the game properly on Saturday [in Florida].”

Ward (23-17-10) won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2006 as playoff MVP in Carolina’s Stanley Cup season. But like Eric Staal, whom Ward replaced as the longest-tenured Hurricanes player when Staal was traded to the Rangers ahead of this season’s trade deadline, he had difficulty matching the magic of that season.

Ward, who stopped 27 of 31 shots, is in the final season of a six-year, $37.8 million contract and could become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 if he and the team do not agree on a new deal.

Peters remained focused on the loss rather than it potentially being Ward’s final home game in Raleigh.

“Any time you lose it’s tough to swallow, right?” Peters said. “I’m not going to speculate on whether it’s his last game or it’s not his last game at home here.”

The Hurricanes opened the scoring just 94 seconds into the game when Riley Nash got his ninth goal of the season off a Jeff Skinner feed. Skinner found Nash alone in the slot, and the Carolina forward beat Lindgren, who allowed the goal on the first shot he faced in his pro career.

But Montreal defenseman Darren Dietz, playing in his 12th career game, tied the score with just 9.9 seconds remaining in the first, firing a slapshot over Ward’s right shoulder to make it 1-1. It was Dietz’s first career NHL goal.

Rookie defenseman Noah Hanifin, who had the shootout winner Tuesday in Boston, found the back of the net again, ripping a slapshot past Lindgren at 5:11 of the second to recapture the lead for Carolina. The goal, Hanifin’s fourth of the season, was assisted by Jordan Staal and Joakim Nordstrom.

But that was all the Hurricanes would get by Lindgren, who just finished his junior season at St. Cloud State in late March and signed a two-year contract last week with Montreal as an undrafted free agent.

“This is what sport is all about,” Montreal head coach Michel Therrien said of Lindgren’s debut. “You got a kid that two weeks ago was in college and his first game in the NHL, family was there tonight and he got the win so this is a good moment.”

Pacioretty got his second point of the night when he knotted the game up again for Montreal, ripping a wrist shot from the slot that hit Ward’s right shoulder, fluttered into the air, and fell behind the Carolina goaltender and into the net at 13:12 of the second.

Then Montreal took the lead for the first time — and for good — when Daniel Carr tapped in a rebound off a Tomas Plekanec shot with just more than three minutes remaining in the period.

The Canadiens closed out the scoring with 4:01 left when Dietz took another slapshot that Ward oddly blockered right to Lars Eller, who quickly knocked it in for his 13th goal of the season.

Thirteen seconds later the officials finally called their first penalty of the night, sending Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov to the box for high sticking at 16:12 of the third. The Hurricanes opted to pull Ward 39 seconds into the power play, leaving their net empty for the game’s final three minutes and 48 seconds, but they were unable to mount a comeback.


• Derek Ryan, who was called up from Charlotte for the game, left during the first period with an upper body injury and did not return. Peters did not have an update on Ryan, who leads the Checkers in scoring with 55 points in 70 games and figures to be a big part of Charlotte’s playoff push if his injury is not significant.

• Elias Lindholm started at center, as promised by Peters before the game, but he wound up back on the wing with Carolina playing just three centers due to Ryan’s injury.

• The Hurricanes end their season Saturday in Florida at 7 p.m. against the Panthers. The team will have their end-of-season meia availability Tuesday at 10 a.m.

• The announced attendance was 15,210.


Bill Peters Named Coach For Team Canada At World Championships

Carolina Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters will coach Team Canada at the IIHF World Championships in Moscow next month. Photo by James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Carolina Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters will coach Team Canada at the IIHF World Championships in Moscow next month. Photo by James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Hurricanes’ season will end Saturday in Florida against the Panthers, but head coach Bill Peters will still be busy.

The second-year coach was tabbed Tuesday to lead Canada’s entry at the IIHF World Championships starting May 6 in Moscow.

“[It’s] always exciting anytime you get to represent your country,” Peters told Hurricanes web producer Michael Smith after the announcement. “It’s been a real good experience every time I’ve done it.”

Peters also told Smith his staff for the tournament —Ottawa head coach Dave Cameron, former Minnesota head coach Mike Yeo and Hockey Canada’s Misha Donskov — would meet in Raleigh next week to begin preparation.

Peters, a native of Three Hills, Alb., has served his country several times behind the bench, including guiding Canada’s U-18 Junior World Cup team to gold in 2008. He will also serve as one of Toronto coach Mike Babcock’s assistance at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey starting in mid-September.

Brandon Saad’s natural hat trick ends Hurricanes’ playoff hopes

Fan Appreciation Night at PNC Arena turned into the Brandon Saad show.

The Columbus winger scored three consecutive goals for his first career hat trick, erasing an early Carolina lead and catapulting the Blue Jackets to a 5-1 win Saturday in the Hurricanes’ penultimate home game of the 2015-16 season.

The night was billed a celebration of the fans’ commitment to the team, but instead the loss eliminated Carolina from the playoff race, marking the seventh straight season the franchise has missed the postseason.

“We always believed in ourselves and we kept [the playoff] hopes alive for a long time here, even after the trading deadline after we lost three of our best players,” said goalie Eddie Lack, who stopped 22 out of 27 shots in the loss.

Carolina carried play in the first period, outshooting Columbus 16-6. But much like Thursday’s game against the Rangers, the Hurricanes were outplayed in the second.

“They took advantage of some turnovers and we never got going again,” Carolina coach Bill Peters said.

Saad, who tied the game in the first by stealing a Jay McClement pass in the Carolina zone and beating Lack over his glove on a breakaway at 14:17, wasn’t done after the opening frame.

He got his second goal of the night 6:36 into the second. Rookie Sonny Milano, in his second NHL game, cruised around the Carolina net and fed a perfect pass in the slot to Saad, who one-timed the puck past Lack.

The Columbus winger completed the natural hat trick 12 minutes later, tapping in an Alexander Wennberg pass right in front of the net to get his 28th goal of the year and give Columbus a 3-1 lead at 18:43.

A 5-on-3 power play goal by Boone Jenner with 0.1 seconds left — his 30th of the season — gave the Blue Jackets a three-goal cushion heading into the third period.

But unlike Thursday vs. the Rangers, there wasn’t a third-period comeback in store for the Hurricanes.

The Blue Jackets muddied up the game in the third, and when Oliver Bjorkstrand scored 9:21 into the period, any hopes of a rally ended.

“That was not our hockey, not Canes hockey,” center Jordan Staal said. “It wasn’t something to be proud of those last two periods.”

Columbus’ win helped them avoid a season sweep by the Hurricanes, winning the teams’ fourth and final matchup after Carolina took the first three.

Jeff Skinner had Carolina’s lone goal, opening the scoring at 8:53 of the first by getting his team-leading 28th goal of the season. Skinner maneuvered into the zone, scooted around Columbus defenseman Cody Goloubef, and beat Joonas Korpisalo on the stick side with a wrist shot.

But Carolina’s offense was absent for much of the rest of the night, and they wouldn’t get another past the Columbus netminder. The Blue Jackets came out with a purpose in the second, and the Hurricanes couldn’t match their intensity.

“We stopped moving our feet, and it’s tough to make plays when you’re standing still,” Skinner said. “We just didn’t move our feet enough in the second.”

While Saad was scoring his trifecta of goals, the Hurricanes were barely registering shots on Korpisalo. It took 7:31 for Carolina to get its first shot of the second period, then until the 18-minute mark to get their second. Forty-three seconds later Saad got his third, and a lone hat fell to the ice in celebration.

“It got away from us for sure,” Peters said. “It was 1-1 after 20, and we thought it was going to continue to go that way without probably putting in the same amount of work as we did in the first 20.”

The loss confirmed what seemed inevitable the past couple weeks: the Hurricanes would have another early summer break, hopeful the progress made this season will snap their postseason drought.

“We’ve been building a team that’s hard to play against and playing hard every night,” Staal said. “We always want to consistently do that, and tonight wasn’t the night.”

The Hurricanes have three games remaining this season. They head to Boston for a game Tuesday, then return to Raleigh for the home finale Thursday against Montreal. Carolina closes out the 2015-16 campaign Saturday in Florida.


• Carolina lost the special teams battle, going 0-for-2 on the power play while allowing one goal — Jenner’s 5-on-3 tally with just a tenth of a second left on the clock in the second period — on four Columbus extra-man opportunities.

• Victor Rask earned his first assist since March 8 on Skinner’s goal, his 26th helper of the season. He now has six points in his last six games. Jaccob Slavin earned the other assist, his fourth in six games. His 17 assists tie him with fellow Hurricanes defenseman Noah Hanifin for the fourth-most assists by rookie defensemen this season.

• Mac McCaughan, frontman of Chapel Hill indie rock mainstays Superchunk and co-founder of Merge Records, performed during both intermissions with his solo band, the Non-Believers.