Analysis from Philadelphia
→ In their final game of the 2016-17 season, the Carolina Hurricanes erased a late third period deficit and prevailed over the Philadelphia Flyers in a shootout, 4-3. Brock McGinn scored twice (and had the game-winner in the shootout) and Eddie Lack made 41 saves, while Bryan Bickell scored a goal in the shootout.
"Obviously we wanted to get this one for Bicks. A really, really great career," Lack said. "He was probably the best teammate I've ever played with, just the presence he has in the locker room and the positivity he brings. We really wanted to win for him. I'm really, really happy we did."
"That was nice getting the win, first and foremost. Seeing the Philly fans and their respect, giving me applause," Bickell said. "It was nice to get the win and get the opportunity to shoot in the shootout. I haven't done that much in my career. A couple guys hit some milestones tonight. It was a big win for us and a good way to finish."
"It's good to end the season doing it right," head coach Bill Peters said. "We haven't been great on the road, as it reflects in our record, but we found a way to get in a win that's tough to win in."
→ Bryan Bickell played in the final game of his NHL career tonight. It's been a whirlwind of a week for the veteran forward, who made his return to the NHL just five months after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Having made the decision to hang up the skates after this season, Bickell had a number of family and friends make the trip to Philadelphia today for his goodbye.
As was the case last night, Bickell was one of the Canes' starting five. The Flyers honored his career during the first timeout of the first period.
"Our guys have a lot of respect for Bicks. What a great, classy organization and move by the Philadelphia Flyers to do that," Peters said. "A lot of respect amongst the hockey community for Bryan Bickell and the fight he's fighting and going to continue to fight. Our guys rallied around him once he got called up."
Though he didn't get credited with an assist, Bickell's puck pressure along the far boards helped create the Canes' first goal of the game, as a turnover ended up on Derek Ryan's stick. Ryan then found Brock McGinn wide open in front, and he finished to give the visitors an early 1-0 lead.
Peters said last night that, should the situation present itself, he would use Bickell in the shootout. As fate would have it, that exact scenario occurred tonight with the game knotted at three. So, Peters tabbed Bickell, who scorched a shot to the back of the net.
"It doesn't surprise me. He's been doing that to me for weeks in practice, so I was just like, yeah, he's got this," Lack said. "He was a great player who had a great career."
"[Peters] came up to me last game and was like, "I should have put you in. I should have put you in.' And I was like, 'It's OK, coach. I understand.' I think the hockey gods stepped up there and gave me the opportunity," Bickell said. "I was just happy to see that one go in. It's ideal to leave on a good foot. It's special what they have here as a team. It's a young team with a bright future."
"He's got a great shot, you know that. This guy can shoot a puck," Peters said. "It's just the way it's supposed to go, right?"
A portion of the Flyers' bench offered fist bumps before Bickell was mobbed by elated teammates at the Canes' bench.
"It was awesome. You never forget it," Peters said. "I'll never forget the goal. I'll never forget the reaction of his teammates. I'll never forget the emotion he had."
Bickell was the last Canes' player on the ice after the shootout win, and he gave a wave to the crowd before skating off. Of course, Bickell was awarded the "chop wood, carry water" postgame award as he unlaced his skates for the final time.
"The first time I lifted the Cup was in Philly, and to end it here is nice," Bickell said. "You think of all the memories, support and people that helped to this moment, it kind of all rushes in at once. I'm just happy to have them to support me and believe me to do what I love."
→ McGinn struck again in the third period to break a 1-1 deadlock, as he parked himself in front of the crease and redirected Noah Hanifin's point shot. It was Hanifin's 25th assist and McGinn's seventh goal of the season. As the third shooter in the shootout, McGinn scored to seal the Canes' 4-3 victory.
"He was good here tonight," Peters said. "I thought everyone found a way to contribute and make a positive contribution to the victory."
→ The Canes' third-period lead didn't last long. Just over two minutes later, Dale Weise scored his second of the game, a wrister from in between the circles, to again draw the score even. 67 seconds later, Wayne Simmonds potted his 31st goal of the season to give the Flyers their first lead of the night.
And the Flyers' lead? It didn't last too long either. On a late power play, Sebastian Aho hammered home a one-timer for his 24th goal of the season to tie the game at three.
→ Thus closes the book on another Hurricanes regular season. Though the team didn't qualify for the playoffs, the amount of young talent on the team breeds immense hope for the future.
"We're going to be a little disappointed for awhile that we didn't make it. I felt like we played some really, really good hockey at the end there. If we just could have done that earlier in the season, we probably would be starting playoffs next week," Lack said. "There's a really, really bright future for this team, and I'm looking forward to seeing what this team can do next year."
The countdown to the 2017-18 season now begins, and we're all already wondering: #IsItOctoberYet?