PHILADELPHIA -- Scoring goals and winning games is always nice, but for the Carolina Hurricanes it was more than just a bit bittersweet.
Eric Staal scored two goals in regulation and had the only goal in the shootout to help the Hurricanes beat the Philadelphia Flyers 6-5 on Sunday at Wells Fargo Center. It was Staal's second two-goal game of the season, and it helped the Hurricanes finish on a two-game win streak. However, there wasn't much celebration in the Carolina dressing room.
"It doesn't matter," Staal said. "I wish I could say something different but it doesn't. We've missed the playoffs again and it's disappointing. ... We're a team that's .500 and that's not good enough in this League to get into the [Stanley Cup] playoffs. We need to be better. We look forward to hopefully trying to improve in some areas and get everybody to elevate a little more and look forward to next year."
Jeff Skinner also scored twice in regulation and Manny Malhotra had a goal. Anton Khudobin made 39 saves in regulation and overtime, and then stopped Jason Akeson, Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier in the shootout.
Wayne Simmonds scored two goals, and Matt Read, Kimmo Timonen and Couturier had one apiece for the Flyers, who next face the New York Rangers in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Rookie goaltender Calvin Heeter stopped 33 shots in his NHL debut.
Skinner's goals gave him a career-best 33, but like Staal, he wasn't in much of a mood to enjoy it.
"It's nice," he said. "You always want to try to look to improve. For me it's nice to sort of get back to producing offensively like that. I got some real good chemistry with my linemates early in the year and later in the year with Lindy [Elias Lindholm] and Nasher [Riley Nash]. It's nice to get back to that pace."
Lindholm set up a power-play goal that put Carolina ahead 5-4 with 4:21 left in the third period. His dump-in took an awkward carom off the end boards, leaving Heeter, who had expected it to roll behind the net, far out of position. He dove into the crease to stop Andre Loktionov's shot but couldn't recover to deny Skinner on the rebound.
The Flyers battled back, and with Heeter off the ice for an extra attacker, Simmonds scored his second of the game, off a Mark Streit rebound with 9.5 seconds remaining.
It was the second time the Flyers came back from the brink. They trailed 4-1 just 17 seconds into the second period but scored three times in a span of 3:32 midway through the second, including twice in 10 seconds, to tie the game.
Timonen started the comeback with a power-play goal at 12:00. With Ron Hainsey in the penalty box for hooking Scott Hartnell, the Flyers worked the puck in the Carolina end. Giroux sent it back to Timonen at the blue line, and he one-timed a shot over Khudobin's glove.
After the faceoff Tye McGinn pressured Hainsey into a turnover at the Carolina blue line. Simmonds jumped on the loose puck and beat Khudobin over his glove at 12:10.
Couturier tied the game when he blocked a John-Michael Liles pass at the Philadelphia blue line and scored on a breakaway at 15:32.
"We talked about how this is a setup to the playoffs," Read said. "We have to find the right way to play hockey, play as a team. Play defense first. In the first period we didn't do that. We came in here and we talked about taking care of our defensive zone and moving from there. Those three quick goals helped us a lot."
The Flyers needed that big comeback after Carolina scored three times on its first nine shots in the opening 12:32 of the game.
Skinner started things 2:07 in on Carolina's first shot. Nash won a puck battle with Jakub Voracek on the left side of the Philadelphia zone and whipped a pass across to Skinner, who fired a shot over Heeter's glove for his 32nd of the season.
Staal pushed the lead to 2-0 at 8:31 when he scored his 20th. Jiri Tlusty carried the puck down the left side of the Philadelphia zone and left it for Staal, who sent a low wrist shot that went between Heeter's pads.
Read gave the Flyers life when he scored his 22nd of the season, one-timing an Akeson pass from the inside of the left circle to make it 2-1, but Malhotra answered with his first goal in 29 games, beating Heeter with a low wrist shot between his pads at 12:32.
Heeter admitted he was nervous at the start.
"You could tell in the first period and a half there that it took me a while to settle down and feel comfortable out there," he said. "I was fighting the puck, a bit unsure about my positioning in my play. I felt that about halfway through the game I started to settle down and I felt more comfortable. I was playing better and making more saves, I had a little more consistency, but in the end the early mis-performance cost me."
Heeter's teammates knew it was a tough situation for him to step into, considering the Flyers had little more than pride to play for.
"It's not easy for a goalie to come in to a game like this when we don't have much to play for," Timonen said.
The Hurricanes didn't have anything to play for either. While the Flyers talked about turning the page to get ready for the playoffs, the Hurricanes were talking about starting their building efforts for the 2014-15 season.
At least they get to do it on a positive note.
"Games like this are good for our team because we've got a lot of young guys and they have to learn through these experiences," coach Kirk Muller said. "Not that it's a playoff game but this is a tough rink to play in, sold out, game got intense near the end. For our guys to find a way to win the game was what we like to see as the coaches. Good finish for us."
Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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