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Flyers head to playoffs off shootout loss

The SportsXchange

PHILADELPHIA -- Ending a tough season on a positive note, the Carolina Hurricanes earned a 6-5, shootout win over the playoff-bound Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday.

Carolina center Eric Staal beat Philadelphia goalie Cal Heeter for the only goal of the shootout.

The Flyers, who overcame a 4-1 deficit in the second half of the game. forced overtime with 9.5 seconds left in regulation when right winger Wayne Simmonds scored to tie create a 5-5 tie.

Philadelphia, which came in third place in the Metropolitan Division, is headed for a first-round postseason matchup with the second-place New York Rangers.

Carolina left winger Jeff Skinner and Staal notched two goals apiece for the Hurricanes.

"(We) played hard tonight, (we)played the right way, and you know, we wanted to win our last game -- the consolation that it is -- we finished up on a good note," Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said. "Obviously (not making the playoffs) is disappointing, but by the same token, I really think there's a lot of things that have come out of this year with some of our personnel. We've got to take the good and build with it."

With the game barely two minutes old, Skinner opened the scoring on the Hurricanes' first shot. Six minutes later, Staal put the puck past Heeter to give the Hurricanes a 2-0 lead.

Heeter, making his Flyers debut in net as starting goalie Steve Mason recovers from injury, was on the receiving end of Bronx cheers most of the afternoon.

"I'd say nerves played a part," said Heeter, who made 33 saves. "You could tell in the first period and a half there that it took me a while to settle down and feel comfortable out there. I was fighting the puck, a bit unsure about my positioning in my play.

"I felt that about half way through the game, I started to settle down and I felt more comfortable. I was playing better and making more saves, I had a little more consistency, but in the end, the early mis-performance cost me."

Philadelphia right winger Jason Akeson added, "Obviously he was a little bit nervous. He'd been working hard all year. It's one of those things, you know, a couple tough goals. ... He bounced back, though, and played well the rest of the game."

Carolina's lead reached 4-1 when Staal scored his second goal of the game 17 seconds in the second period. Philadelphia replied with three consecutive goals before the second intermission.

Defenseman Kimmo Timonen (on a power play) and Simmonds scored 10 seconds apart, with the latter goal slicing the margin to 4-3 at 12:10 of the second period. Center Sean Couturier tied the game at 4-4 when he scored an unassisted goal at 15:32. He poked the puck away from Hurricanes defenseman John-Michael Liles and beat goalie Anton Khudobin (39 saves).

"We had a comfortable lead, but in his building they can create momentum," Staal said. "I thought their power play did that for them. After that we made two mistakes and they had breakaways. Things can change quickly, and they did. We stuck with it, and there were a couple of good chances both ways I thought at 5-5. Ultimately, we got it done in the shootout."

Carolina regained the lead on Skinner's second tally of the game, a power-play goal with just 4:21 remaining. Heeter made a great initial save, but Skinner pushed the rebound past him to put Carolina ahead 5-4.

After Simmonds retied the score in the waning seconds, each team had several opportunities to score in overtime but came away empty.

The Flyers failed to defeat the Hurricanes all season, going 0-3-1. The last time the Flyers went an entire season without a win over the Carolina/Hartford franchise was 1991-92, the second of two consecutive seasons in which Philadelphia went winless against Hartford.

"We were competitive the whole game," Flyers coach Craig Berube said. "Even when we were down, guys battled back and did a good job. We're just looking for good habits and skating. I thought that they did that."

NOTES: The Flyers presented their end-of-season awards prior to the game, with C Claude Giroux receiving the Bobby Clarke Trophy as the team's MVP. Giroux led the team in scoring for the fourth consecutive season despite being held without a goal until his 16th game. ... Carolina LW Jeff Skinner's first goal Sunday was his career-high 32nd of the season. His previous high of 31 was set during his 2010-11 rookie campaign. ... Hurricanes C Eric Staal reached the 20-goal plateau for the eighth time in his nine-year career. His two goals Sunday gave him 21. ... A team-record seven Flyers appeared in all 82 of the team's games this season. Six players from the 1974-75 squad appeared in all 80 games. ... The Flyers and the New York Rangers, first-round playoff opponents, split the season series 2-2. ... The Hurricanes missed the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season. ... Carolina became the first team since the 1967-68 season to average eight or fewer penalty minutes per game.
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