The Hurricanes erased two deficits to force overtime, but Dallas captain Jamie Benn’s OT goal — his fourth point of the night — gave the Stars a 4-3 win. Carolina secured one point in the standings to clinch a playoff berth for the third consecutive year, the first time the team has done that since it relocated to North Carolina.
Max McCormick, Jaccob Slavin and Jani Hakanpaa scored for Carolina, and James Reimer made 27 saves in the loss.
1. The Hurricanes made official Monday what was inevitable for some time, earning a playoff berth for the third time in as many years under coach Rod Brind’Amour.
“You’ve seen that we’ve had some good years, then it’s just been kind of one and done, and we don’t want to be that,” Brind’Amour said. “I think it’s important to be consistent and be relevant year in, year out, and that’s what we’re trying to be. … We’re getting better, but we’ve got one goal in mind, and we’re all on that same page.”
2. Carolina hasn’t got much production late from its top players — the last 5-on-5 goal by one of the team’s usual top-nine forwards was Jordan Staal’s goal in the second period of the Hurricanes’ 4-1 win in Tampa Bay on April 20 — more than 3½ games.
Instead, it’s been scoring from the defense or unlikely sources — or both — that’s kept the team in games of late.
McCormick’s goal just past the game’s midway point halved the Stars’ lead and gave the journeyman his first goal in a Carolina sweater and the seventh of his career.
“It’s been a while since I’ve played a handful of games in a row and over a year since I’ve scored a goal,” said McCormick, who was injured Jan. 30 in just his second game with the team and this week has played his first two since. “We’ve been skating a lot and staying in good shape and just trying to stay ready for when your opportunity comes. So that one felt pretty good.”
The other big goal came from Hakanpaa, who is quickly becoming Carolina’s Secret Weapon 2.0 in the ilk of former Hurricanes defenseman Niclas Wallin.
Hakanpaa’s one-timer with over four minutes remaining in regulation hit a Stars player’s stick and redirected past Jake Oettinger (29 saves) to tie the game.
“It’s nice when you can contribute on the offensive side of things as well,” he said. “So it was always a plus for me, and it’s fun.”
Hakanpaa now has two goals in seven games since coming over from the Ducks at the trade deadline, doubling his goal output from the first 47 games of his career. His other goal was also a clutch one, giving Carolina the lead in the third period of a tie game against Nashville on April 17.
3. With their playoff ticket punched, the Hurricanes now have eight games to secure the Central Division title and jockey for the overall top seed in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Carolina, with 69 points in 48 games, holds a two-point edge over Florida with two games in hand and a three-point lead on Tampa Bay, which has also played 48 games.
A first-place finish means a likely first-round matchup against either Dallas or Nashville, and the Hurricanes have played well against both teams. Despite Monday’s loss in Dallas, Carolina is 5-1-1 against the Stars and a perfect 6-0-0 vs. the Predators.
Number To Know
4 — Points for Benn, who assisted on Dallas’ first three goals and scored the winner in overtime. In the previous five games against Carolina this season, the Stars captain had two goals and two assists for four points. Benn now has 14 goals and 17 assists for 31 points in 25 career games against the Hurricanes.
They Said It
“This group has worked their ass off all year.”
— Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour on Carolina earning a playoff berth
Morgan Geekie, Hurricanes forward — Geekie was the unnamed player Brind’Amour criticized following Saturday’s overtime loss in Florida for a blown defensive assignment that swung the momentum of the game. On Monday, Geekie assisted on the goals by McCormick and Hakanpaa, setting both up with nice passes.
“It’s tough to blame somebody for a goal, but he was responsible partially for that,” Brind’Amour said of the breakdown Saturday. “I think it was just good that he was able to contribute tonight and for him to feel good about it. He earned his ice time tonight. Bumped him up, and he obviously came through for us.”
Joakim Ryan, Hurricanes defenseman — With Carolina opting for seven defensemen over a 12th forward, Ryan was limited to just 3:45 ice time in five shifts with Jake Bean reinserted into the lineup.