Apr 7, 2012
The Carolina Hurricanes will wrap up a playoff-less season Saturday night, but they can still affect how the playoffs in the Eastern Conference look.
The Florida Panthers have earned their first trip to the playoffs in 12 years, but they'll still have the Southeast Division title to play for as they hold a two-point edge on the Washington Capitals.
All the Panthers need to do to ensure their first-ever Southeast Division title is earn a point in today's regular-season finale. Florida could also win the Southeast with a loss and a Caps loss tonight against the New York Rangers. If the teams wind up tied after today's action, Washington will take the division title and the third seed in the East due to more non-shootout wins.
"This team is full of character and we're proud to have brought the Panthers organization back to the playoffs," said Florida general manager Dale Tallon. "Despite some of the adversity that we faced this year, the coaching staff and players on this team showed their determination to win and accomplish one of our main objectives - qualifying for postseason play."
The Hurricanes will not partake in the postseason, but Carolina is coming off consecutive victories and would like to spoil Florida's division title hopes tonight. A Canes win paired with losses by Winnipeg and Tampa Bay and Carolina could finish as high at 10th in the East.
Carolina posted their first shootout win of the season Thursday against visiting Montreal as Eric Staal scored the game-winning goal in the third round.
Staal went in on goal with speed, making a quick deke and lifting the puck past the stick side of Habs goalie Peter Budaj to seal the victory. Cam Ward, who earned his 30th win of the season, stopped Lars Eller and David Desharnais in the shootout while former Hurricane Erik Cole shot off the post.
Chad LaRose scored in regulation for the Hurricanes, while Ward posted 30 stops.
"It was a really good effort from everyone tonight," Hurricanes head coach Kirk Muller said. "It was great to see [Staal] be the final shooter and to score the final goal."
Thursday's victory gave Carolina a 20-14-7 record at home this year, but the club is just 13-18-9 as the guest.
Florida won the first four meetings of the season with the Hurricanes before Carolina posted a 3-1 home win on March 21. The Panthers have won two straight and six of their last eight home tests against the 'Canes.