RALEIGH — Alex DeBrincat scored to give Chicago a come-from-behind 2-1 overtime win over the Hurricanes on Thursday at PNC Arena, Carolina’s final home game of the regular season.
Martin Necas scored shorthanded for the Hurricanes’ only goal, and Petr Mrazek made 26 saves in the loss.
1. Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour didn’t look like someone whose team had just capped off a five-game homestand with nine of a possible 10 points.
“It’s not good enough. We can’t play like that next week, that’s for sure,” Brind’Amour said of his team’s effort Thursday. “I get it, it’s tough. The guys have done a great job all year to get us in this position, but … that was not a good game.”
Brind’Amour has made a point of how his team attacks the day in front of it and nothing more, but he was quick to make it clear Thursday’s performance would not hold up when the stakes are elevated.
Carolina will have two games to right the ship — against likely first-round opponent Nashville, as it turns out — before it returns home to host Games 1 & 2 of the first round. The coach hopes Thursday’s loss is a distant but significant memory by then.
“You’ve got to learn from it,” Brind’Amour said. “The best way is, when you play like that, to not win a game. To get it handed to you. We got a point out of it, great, but we got beat tonight, for sure. So we’re going to come back tomorrow, look at it and figure a way to get better, but it has to be a learning experience.”
2. Chicago defenseman Riley Stillman got his first NHL goal on the Blackhawks’ tying tally with just over three minutes remaining in regulation. Stillman, a fourth-round pick by the Panthers in 2016 who was traded to Chicago before the trade deadline, is the son of Hurricanes’ Stanley Cup winner Cory Stillman, who played with Brind’Amour for three seasons.
The younger Stillman, 23, had played 53 NHL games over three seasons before redirecting Pius Suter’s point shot for his first career goal. Brind’Amour wasn’t in the mood to celebrate his old teammate’s son’s goal — Riley was just 8 years old when Carolina won the Cup — but he did offer a brief statement.
“I’m happy for him to be in the NHL and living his dream,” Brind’Amour said. “That’s great. I didn’t need to see (his first goal) tonight, but I am happy for him.”
3. Carolina wrapped up its home schedule by earning at least a point in its 13th straight game. Even more impressively, the Hurricanes finished 20-3-5 at PNC Arena and have put themselves in position to have home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
Carolina’s magic number to win the Central Division is now two, so any combination of two points — be it from a Carolina win or overtime/shootout loss or Tampa Bay failing to secure points in any of their final three games — would give the Hurricanes a banner to hang and the advantages of a higher seed in each of the first two rounds.
Should the Hurricanes advance to the NHL’s final four, they still have the inside track on being the No. 1 overall seed and winning the Presidents’ Trophy.
Vegas and Colorado pose the biggest threat to Carolina for that honor. The Avalanche — eight points behind the Hurricanes but with three games in hand — play Los Angeles four times and the Golden Knights once, while Vegas — four points behind with two games in hand — has two games against St. Louis and one in San Jose to go with their visit from Colorado.
With 36 ROW (regulation plus overtime wins) to Carolina’s 32, the Golden Knights have already secured a tiebreaker on the Hurricanes. If the Avalanche or Lightning were to find a way to catch up to Carolina, they too would hold a tiebreaking edge.
Number To Know
4 — Shorthanded points for Necas after he scored on the penalty kill in the first period, tying him for second in the NHL for the most shorthanded points. Necas now has two goals and two assists on the season and is tied with seven other players behind Boston’s Brad Marchand, who has seven shorthanded points this year.
They Said It
“We needed to get our butts kicked, to be quite honest with you.”
— Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour on his team’s lackluster play in the overtime loss
Petr Mrazek, Hurricanes goalie — Brind’Amour said the Hurricanes needed to get Mrazek back up to speed before the playoffs. The goalie was in a full sprint Thursday. While Chicago was outshot by 10 shots, the high-danger chances were about even (17-15 favoring Carolina, according to NaturalStatTrick.com) and both goalies (Mrazek and Collin Delia, who made 36 saves) made several key stops to keep the game close.
While Mrazek ended up with the loss, he was quick to answer whether or not he is ready for the postseason.
“Yeah. I think we all feel ready to go,” he said. “We’re excited for it, and we just have to get through two more games. We just have to battle hard and get the confidence on track for the playoffs.”
Brind’Amour — who called Mrazek easily his team’s best player — seemed satisfied with his goalie’s progress with the second season fast approaching.
“He kept us in a game that we had no business being in,” the coach said. “As long as he feels good and dusted off the rust, I think he looks like he’s ready to go.”
Everyone else — Other than the game following Jordan Staal’s 1,000th game ceremony — a 3-1 home loss to Detroit on April 12 that marks the last time Carolina lost in regulation — Thursday was the Hurricanes’ worst effort of the year.
“But tonight — you talk about the process, about doing it right — was crap,” Brind’Amour said.
Necas, who scored Carolina’s lone goal, was equally despondent.
“We gave up so many chances against, and that can’t happen,” he said, arms crossed defiantly.