Carolina defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere (left), Jack Drury (center) and Jalen Chatfield hunch over after the Hurricanes' home game against the Tampa Bay Lightning in PNC Arena on Tuesday, March 28, 2023. The Lightning beat the Canes 4-0.

After being one of the leading teams in the Eastern Conference all season – as well as the top team in the Metropolitan Division – the Carolina Hurricanes ended the 2022-23 season with a disappointing 4-3 loss to the Florida Panthers.

The Canes (52-21-9) were on fire in rounds one and two, but were unable to get past Florida (42-32-8) and their impenetrable defense headlined by goaltender Sergi Bobrovski. Game four of the Eastern Conference Finals had more offense than the previous three games, but it wasn’t enough for the struggling Carolina team. 

The first frame started off on a low note for the Canes, as Florida scored the opening goal not even a minute after puck drop, and they would strike again 10 minutes later. With a daunting opening score of 2-0, Carolina needed something to get the energy going. Center Paul Statny would get the ball rolling for the Canes offense by scoring, cutting the score to 2-1. 

Both teams ended the first period with nine shots on goal, but all of that would change within the second frame. Carolina left wing Tuevo Teravainen would shoot and score three minutes into the period, tying up the game 2-2. This tie wouldn’t last long as Florida was able to strike again despite only taking nine shots on goal, while the Canes finished the 20 minute frame with a dramatic 17. 

When the third period came around, both sides knew that it would be a battle to finish out the game. Carolina was all over the ice trying to get a goal, and right wing Jesper Fast eventually hit the tying shot. His clutch goal with four minutes left in the game gave the Caniacs a beacon of hope – one that would be shattered three minutes later. 

With just one minute left in the game, center Jordan Staal was sent to the penalty box on a tripping call. While the Canes might have been gearing up for another OT matchup, the Panthers were looking ice off Carolina. Left wing Matthew Tkachuck seized the opportunity and notched the series-winning goal, stripping any hope of the Stanley Cup away from Raleigh. 

It is hard to pin down one part of the Carolina team that led to the sweep, but the lack-luster defense within this game could be a key part of the Canes’ demise. The Carolina Hurricanes suited up six defensemen for game four, but only five saw significant playing time as defenseman Jacob Slavin got injured a minute into the game. Four of the remaining five Canes defensemen recorded over 20 minutes of icetime, which caused an exhausted first line of defense to the electric Florida offense. With no energy on defense, goaltender Fredrik Andersen was left to stop the opposing shots alone, finishing the game with .833 save percentage. 

Following the disappointing sweep, Carolina will enter the offseason sooner than Canes fans hoped, stuck waiting until October to return to the ice.

Assistant Sports Editor

I'm Erin Ferrare and I'm a freshman from Yorktown, Virginia. This is my first year writing for TechSports. I enjoy writing about and spectating volleyball, football, and hockey.

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