The Carolina Hurricanes played their last home game of the regular season Thursday.
They’ll soon be back, and for much bigger games.
The Canes closed out their home schedule in this condensed season, facing the Chicago Blackhawks for the third time this week. For the first time this week, the Blackhawks won 2-1, getting an overtime winner from Alex DeBrincat.
Defenseman Riley Stillman tied the score 1-1 for the Blackhawks with 3:01 left in regulation with his first NHL goal. Pius Suter turned near the left point and wristed a long-distance shot that Stillman tipped in the slot to beat goalie Petr Mrazek.
DeBrincat then whistled a shot past Vincent Trocheck and Mrazek with 2:58 left in the overtime, ending the Canes’ five-game winning streak.
The Canes (36-10-8), who have points in 13 straight games, will go to Nashville to end the regular season with a pair of road games against the Predators. It’s possible the two teams could meet up in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, with the first game at PNC Arena, but first things first. The Canes want to win the Central Division.
Martin Necas gave the Canes a 1-0 lead with a shorthanded breakaway in the first period, and on a weird play that ended the night for Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith.
Keith, at the left point, was trying to control the puck but stumbled and fell into the linesman near the blue line, his head hitting the linesman’s knee. Necas, ever speedy, took off with the loose puck and beat Delia with a backhander at 9:49 of the first.
It was his 14th goal of the season, It also was the second shorthanded goal in as many games for Necas, who had a late empty-netter against Chicago on Tuesday in a 6-3 win.
Delia and Mrazek then matched saves into the third period. One of Mrazek’s biggest stops came just as the second period was about to end when he stopped Patrick Kane on a partial breakaway.
DeBrincat had a breakaway earlier in the second but couldn’t control the puck and didn’t get much on his shot.
The Canes had their chances to add to the 1-0 lead in the third. Steven Lorentz was wide on a shot with an open net, and Nino Niederreiter was denied his 21st goal by a scrambling Delia.
The misses were costly. Stillman, the son of former Canes forward Cory Stillman, then tied it.
Keith left the game and did not return for Chicago. Forward Brett Connolly was injured in the third after an open-ice collision with Lorentz.
Second period: Canes keep 1-0 lead
The Canes maintained their 1-0 lead in the second period but it wasn’t the Canes at their best. Far from it.
The Blackhawks generally outskated the Canes much of the period. Had Patrick Kane scored on a partial breakaway in the final seconds it would be a tie score.
But goalie Petr Mrazek made the save. Mrazek was the Canes’ best player in the period, stopping nine shots. The Blackhawks had 18 scoring chances in the period, including eight high-danger (naturalstattrick.com.)
The Blackhawks’ Alex DeBrincat 18 six goals in the first seven games against the Canes this season and could have had one or two more in this game, DeBrincat had a shorthanded breakaway in the second period after Dougie Hamilton lost the puck. But DeBrincat lost control of the puck and got off a weak shot that hit the outside of the post.
In the first period, DeBrincat powered to the net and collided with Mrazek in the crease as the puck went just wide of the net.
The Canes had a 26-18 shooting edge after two periods.
First period: Necas scores shortie
Martin Necas has a shorthanded goal and the Canes a 1-0 lead after the first period.
Necas had a breakaway after Chicago’s Duncan Keith stumbled near the blue line and collided with the linesman. Necas picked up the loose puck in stride in the neutral zone and beat goalie Collin Delia with a top-shelf backhander at 9:49 of the period.
It was Necas’ 14th goal of the season and his second shorthanded in the past two games -- he scored a late empty-netter Tuesday. Jani Hakanpaa had the only assist.
Keith, who took a knee to the face as he fell on the freakish play, left the game and will not return.
Game setup: Canes have goals
With three games left in the regular season, the Hurricanes still have things to try and achieve: primarily, win the Central Division and the league’s Presidents’ Trophy.
And, try to get a few injured guys back and playing.
The Canes (36-10-7) go into Thursday’s game against Chicago, the eighth and and last of the season against the Blackhawks, with 79 points. They have a four-point lead in the Central on Tampa Bay and Florida, which can’t win the division, and lead Vegas and the NHL by three points.
“We know what kind of position we’re in and we all know what we could potentially achieve,” forward Nino Niederreiter said Thursday morning. “I think that’s something special. At the end of the day we’ve got to make sure we keep our foot on the gas and keep it going all the way.”
The Canes have beat the Blackhawks 5-2 and 6-3 in a back-to-back this week, rallying from a 2-0 first-period deficit on Tuesday. Niederreiter and Andrei Svechnikov both scored twice in Tuesday’s game.
Forward Jordan Martinook participated in Thursday’s morning skate at PNC Arena. Martinook has not played since April 22 against Florida, missing seven games, and will not play Thursday, Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour said.
Injured forwards Brock McGinn and Cedric Paquette continue to be sidelined.
“I’d like to have all those guys in the lineup,” Brind’Amour said. “Unfortunately, it is what it is right now and they’re not able to play. Martinook, we’d love to see him get in here maybe the next game or certainly the last one. They’re nursing some things and hopefully we’ll get them in.”
The Canes finish up the regular season with two games at Nashville.
Goalie Petr Mrazek will be the starter Thursday, playing a second consecutive game against the Blackhawks. Mrazek allowed three goals on 30 shots Tuesday in his first start since returning from a lower-body injury.
No other lineup changes were planned.