Carolina and Ottawa are tied for the East lead with 111 points. If the Hurricanes win their final two games, they will clinch the No. 1 seed in the postseason.
“We will have to be all business, because Tampa’s back is against the wall,” Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette said. “They’ll be trouble to get a point, so it should be a great hockey game.”
After this game, the Hurricanes end the season at home on Tuesday against Buffalo. The Senators play road games at Toronto on Saturday and the New York Rangers on Tuesday.
“If you would have told us at the beginning of the season that if we win our last two games, we’d have the conference championship, a lot of people would have laughed,” said Matt Cullen, who scored the lone goal in a shootout on Friday to give Carolina a 5-4 win. “We’re happy, we’re in a good position.”
Despite the loss, Tampa Bay kept its playoff hopes alive.
“The way we played, how hard we played, if we came out of here empty, it would be tough to get on that plane,” said Martin St. Louis, who missed in the shootout to fall to 0-for-3 this season. “But we played hard and we earned that point.”
The defending Stanley Cup champions have a three-point lead over Atlanta for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. The Lightning will finish up the regular season on Tuesday against the Capitals—a team it has won five of seven games against by a combined 35-18 margin.
Atlanta’s final three games are against non-playoff participants. The Thrashers are at home against Boston on Saturday, and will play road contests Monday at Washington and Tuesday at Florida.
Tampa Bay’s Brad Richards has tallied a point in each game this season against the Hurricanes, recording three goals and nine assists.