Aleksander Barkov scored 24 seconds into overtime to give the Panthers a 4-3 win Saturday in Florida. Dougie Hamilton scored twice and Brett Pesce got his fourth goal of the year.
1. A quick look down the Hurricanes’ roster told much of the story of Saturday night’s game. Carolina was without six players — Jesper Fast, Jordan Martinook, Brock McGinn, Petr Mrazek, Brady Skjei and Teuvo Teravainen — due to injuries, and it showed.
Just two days after coach Rod Brind’Amour relied heavily on his penalty killers in an infractions-filled affair, he was again forced to lean on the top of his roster.
Sebastian Aho (21:14), Jordan Staal (21:02), Vincent Trocheck (20:44), Martin Necas (19:24) and Andrei Svechnikov (19:15) all logged more than 19 minutes at forward, while Jaccob Slavin (23:59), Hamilton (23:50) and Pesce (23:26) all played more than 23 minutes.
While it’s nice to have workhorses, Carolina’s system is predicated on being able to pressure the opposition shift after shift with interchangeable players. You can’t do that when you have so many injuries that you’re forced to play your top players so much — and it resulted in a season-low 19 shots on goal.
2. Fans who have only been watching the other three divisions this season are going to be in a treat this postseason. Everyone who follows the Hurricanes knows what a fun, up-tempo style they play. They also now know that the Panthers are the same way and feature Barkov, who could very well become the NHL’s highest-paid player when he’s a free agent after next season.
Don’t let Carolina’s 6-0-2 regular season record against Florida fool you: The series was close and will be the same way if the two teams meet in the postseason.
“I feel like pretty much every game’s been tight,” Hamilton said. “We’ve had little leads and they’ve been pushing, pushing, pushing in thirds.”
3. The Hurricanes are done with the Panthers and Lightning for the regular season, but that doesn’t mean the final nine games before the playoffs will be easy. After a day off Sunday, those nine games will take place in just 15 days. There’s no more than one rest day between games, so the only prolonged break the Hurricanes will have will be whatever comes before the start of the postseason.
Number To Know
0 — Combined 5-on-5 shot attempts for Max McCormick and Drew Shore, who played for the Hurricanes for the first time since Jan. 30 and Jan. 31, respectively. Both played due to injuries to Martinook and Fast, but Shore (4:02) and McCormick (3:42) were used sparingly.
They Said It
“When you have six guys out, this is what you’re gonna get.”
— Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour on his team looking worn out in the two games against the Panthers
Dougie Hamilton, Hurricanes defenseman — Carolina’s top-scoring defenseman scored twice and now has five goals in April after having just three total in the season’s first three months. But Hamilton — who registered a team-high five shots on goal and eight shot attempts overall — said it’s not so much about results as generating chances.
“Sometimes you hit the post, sometimes you hit the crossbar, sometimes you make a great shot and the goalie saves it, and sometimes you don’t make a great shot that goes in,” Hamilton said. “So it’s just about the process of trying to get shots and not think too much about if it actually goes in or not. I think it’s more about the process for me.”
Morgan Geekie, Hurricanes forward — Brind’Amour said the Panthers’ goal by Gustav Forsling 4:48 into the third period shortly after Carolina had gone up 3-1 was the turning point in the game. Forsling crept in from the point unmarked by Geekie to score, and then 92 seconds later Florida scored shorthanded to tie the game.
“We were in a great spot, and that next shift can’t be that,” Brind’Amour said. “(The) blown D zone coverage can’t happen. That’s on an easy one that we’ve shown a million times, talked about it. So that’s the frustrating part. And we give up shortie after, too. But that goal got the momentum going for them, and then we didn’t really recover.”