The Carolina Hurricanes blew one chance at clinching the division title, but they didn’t have to wait long for another.
The Hurricanes look to wrap up the Southeast Division when they host the streaking Florida Panthers.
Carolina ensured a spot in the playoffs with Monday’s win over Tampa Bay, but failed to clinch the division two days later when it lost 5-1 to the Washington Capitals. The Hurricanes’ magic number for clinching is two points, meaning that any combination of two points earned by Carolina or two points not earned by Tampa Bay would wrap up the division, and with it, a top-three seed in the postseason.
“It would have been nice to have clinched the division here tonight and get that stuff out of the way, but they took advantage of their chances,” center Kevyn Adams said Wednesday. “It’s over and done with.”
Carolina, which trails Ottawa by five points for the best record in the conference, has 10 games left, all against Eastern Conference teams. The Hurricanes have three consecutive games in five days next week against the Capitals, who won Wednesday despite being outshot 50-28.
“That was a frustrating game, because we had more than enough opportunities to score,” said Rod Brind’Amour, who scored Carolina’s only goal.
The Hurricanes, who have lost four of six, had their most shots since moving from Hartford. The then-Whalers had 54 shots against Pittsburgh in February 1989.
“I think the big story is that we just couldn’t score,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “We had more than enough opportunities, we just couldn’t get it done.”
Left wing Cory Stillman remained one point shy of 500 for his career. Rookie left wing Andrew Ladd did not play because of a lower-body injury, running Carolina’s total man games lost due to injury to 233.
The Panthers have won a franchise-record seven straight games, including Wednesday’s 5-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Chris Gratton scored his first goal in eight games for the Florida, which jumped out to a four-goal lead before weathering a Pittsburgh rally.
The Panthers are 10-1-1 in their last 12 games, and are in 10th place in the conference, eight points out of a playoff spot.
“We’ll take the two points,” center Joe Nieuwendyk said. “But we kind of let (Luongo) down a little with sloppy play. We gave them opportunities late that we didn’t have to. We have to be better Friday night for sure.”
Center Jozef Stumpel left the game late in the second period with a hip flexor injury. He has been playing well, with seven points in his previous four contests.