There was not a lot that could be said after Thursday became Friday and the Carolina Hurricanes lost a marathon playoff game to the Florida Panthers.
Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final was the longest playoff game in franchise history and the sixth-longest in NHL history. It ended, almost mercifully, with the Panthers’ Matthew Tkachuk scoring with 13 seconds left in a fourth overtime for a 3-2 victory. Time of day: 1:54 a.m.
What can you say after that? Do you have enough energy left to say it?
Coaches always tell their players to put aside a loss, regardless of the score or the circumstances, and move on. That’s normally after 60 minutes of hockey. But after almost 140 minutes of hockey?
“It’s the worst way to lose, there’s no way around it,” Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “There were a lot of ups and downs in that game, but it’s one game. At the end of the day, it’s one game.”
And what about the goalies: the Panthers’ Sergei Bobrovsky and the Canes’ Frederik Andersen? The two veterans were on the ice for the duration. Up, down, side to side, as the two teams put 125 shots on net.
Bobrovsky is 34 years old and Andersen 33. Could that lead to the Canes turning to a rested and ready Antti Raanta in net in Game 2 on Saturday? That would give Andersen, who has had knee issues, more time to recover.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Brind’Amour said after the game at PNC Arena.. “I haven’t even processed this one yet. I’m not looking ahead yet.”
Bobrovsky had 63 saves for the Panthers, his career playoff high, and Andersen 57, a franchise playoff record. Both faced those critical moments in regulation and then the run of overtimes when they could have yielded a game-deciding goal but didn’t.
Canes defenseman Brent Burns once sent Brandon Montour to the ice with a hit as Montour tried to drive the net. Montour slid into the end boards, popped up and moments later had the puck alone in front of Andersen.
Andersen waited the defenseman out and made the save. The “Fred-die!” chants rang out, as they often did throughout Game 1.
“He was great,” Brind’Amour said. “They definitely had plenty of chances to score. He kept us in there and he gave us a chance. It was a goalie battle and it’s just unfortunate we didn’t find that one.”
By the fourth OT, it was like those marathon dance contests of eons ago, when the final couples staggered and held each other up. Legs were going dead. Shifts were short.
“There wasn’t a lot of jump obviously from either side,” Canes captain Jordan Staal said.
Burns played more than 54 minutes in the game, Montour more than 57. Canes forward Teuvo Teravainen, returning to the lineup from a hand injury, put in 60 shifts and had 37:28 in ice time, certainly not what he expected.
“It was a battle. It came down to who was going to make the last mistake and unfortunately it was us,” Staal said.
Tkachuk has been brilliant at times in the playoffs for the Panthers but was not that noticeable Thursday — until he was, which was early Friday. His winning goal, after a Canes turnover in the Carolina zone., came on the forward’s third shot of the game.
“In overtime like that, it’s about that one little bounce, that one goal that ends it and they were better there,” Canes forward Martin Necas said.
Tkachuk was named the game’s first star, although it was Bobrovsky, the former Vezina Trophy winner who flashed Vezina form in Game 1 and could be the difference in the series.
As the game wore on. Brind’Amour had to flash back to his playing days with the Canes — back to 2002 and Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final, the first played in North Carolina. The Hurricanes and Detroit Red Wings were tied 1-1 in the series and the Canes led 2-1 before the Wings tied it on a Brett Hull tip with a little more than a minute left in regulation.
The game then went into a third overtime before the Wings’ Igor Larionov ended it.
The Canes vowed after the game they would bounce back. They did not. The Wings, heavy favorites in the series, won the next two games and the Stanley Cup.
The Hurricanes have no choice now but to reload and gear up for Game 2.
“Whether we won this game or not we have to go to the next one. That’s the mindset,” Brind’Amour said.