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With a chance to end the home portion of their schedule on a high note, the Carolina Hurricanes did one of the few things they do best: lose in spectacularly uninspiring fashion, this time 5-2 to the Washington Capitals.

Though the Hurricanes piled up 66 even-strength shot attempts, more than half of those came from Jordan Staal’s line alone. For most of the game, he hosted Alex Semin and older brother Eric on his wing, making the ‘Canes lack of depth at center even shallower.

In the interest of experimenting during these meaningless last few, Elias Lindholm was moved to the middle, and his inexperience showed.

The league leaders in disappointment wasted little time in falling behind. Just 62 seconds into the contest, Lindholm’s line yielded Joel Ward all the ice he needed in the defensive zone. With only Anton Khudobin to beat, he easily deked around the Hurricanes’ goaltender and deposited the puck into the empty net. It marked the 50th time this season that the visitors scored first, and again silenced the already withdrawn crowd.

“This is a great, energetic building when you come out as the aggressor,” Eric said. “Our crowd is a crowd that helps carry momentum, and we didn’t do a good enough job of that all year.”

Though the Staals and Semin were dominant every time they touched the ice, the three combined for just one assist, Jordan’s, on Jiri Tlusty’s shorthanded tally in the second.

“We created chances, some ‘Grade A’ chances that we didn’t bury,” Jordan said. “I think like any goalie, you’ve just got to get in front of him. Make sure he doesn’t see the puck. He’s going to stop most of those ones from the outside, so it’s a matter of getting to the net and finding either a rebound or getting in front of him.”

Sometimes it’s just a matter of finding breakdowns in the defense, or taking advantage of a rookie at the end of a long season.

Ward’s line cashed in twice more in periods two and three, victimizing Lindholm once again. He, along with Jason Chimera and Eric Fehr, all ended the night with a goal and a pair of assists.

After Troy Brouwer scored on either side of the second intermission, threatening a Washington hat trick on hat giveaway night in Carolina, most of the crowd had filed out. Apathy had taken hold, and though some remained, only a salute to Jim Rutherford stirred the masses as the clock ticked down on the final home game of the season.

A goal by Radek Dvorak with less than two minutes left gave the fans one final reason to cheer, and bookended the season at PNC Arena — Dvorak opened the scoring against Detroit back in October.

“We needed to be better than we were tonight,” Eric said. “I feel bad for the fans that were here watching and came out to support us. Appreciate the ones that stayed, that were there at the end clapping, because they know it hasn’t been easy, and it hasn’t been easy for me personally over the last five years.”

The last five years have featured a mediocre 90-76-22 home record, and Staal himself had just 26 points in Raleigh this year. Caniacs have itched for the opportunity to tailgate and enjoy playoff hockey, but will again have to pack up the grills until the fall.

It hasn’t been a fun season in Carolina this year, for anyone, but no one is more frustrated than the oft-criticized captain.

“Whether I have a letter or not, I’m going to be the same way,” he said. “I’m taking this personally because I’ve been here the longest. I’ve been through good times — obviously a lot more bad — but my job is to go out there and compete and work. That’s what I’m trying to do. Whether people think that or not, I’m out there competing as hard as I can, regardless of the situation, and that’s what I’m going to continue to do.”

About The Author

Andrew Luistro graduated from Appalachian State University. An avid sports fan, he began beat writing for the Sunbelt Hockey Journal, part of The Hockey Writers Network, with a focus on the Carolina Hurricanes. Andrew also actively follows the Boston Red Sox and Carolina Panthers, among other teams. Follow him on Twitter @ndrewL7

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