PHILADELPHIA - The Carolina Hurricanes put a bow on the 2018-19 regular season with a 4-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.
Four different players found the back of the net to help lead the Hurricanes to their franchise-best 22nd road win of the season.
The Hurricanes have been playing for their playoff lives since Dec. 31. It was a three-month grind, but the Canes surged their way up the Eastern Conference standings and put themselves square in the playoff mix.
It culminated on Thursday night with a 3-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils, and, coupled with a Montreal loss in Washington, the Canes got to celebrate their first playoff berth in 10 years in front of their fans at a euphoric PNC Arena.
It was an emotional night, to say the least.
"We're in! We're in! Yes! Yes! Woo!" Petr Mrazek shouted on the bench to the delight of an elated crowd.
"It's a special time," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said before tonight's regular-season finale. "Making the playoffs is not the goal, but it was a huge step. We're not done. That's the whole thing. We're trying to be the best."
So, after such a cathartic release, how was the team going to discover the emotional energy to play in game 82, the awkward gap-filler in between clinching and the playoffs beginning?
"We pushed so hard for so long to get to the point where you could say, 'OK, we're in the for the next phase.' Now you have this game that's sitting there that does mean something for sure. It could impact who we play, and that could be something pretty important. It's going to be tough. I know it," Brind'Amour said. "We know the one way we have to play, so that's how we hope we come out and give it our best."
So, that's what the Hurricanes did: They came out, played their game and gave it their best.
It wasn't their best game by any stretch, but it was the best of what they could manage. And, they still captured two points in their 22nd road win of the season, a new franchise record.
"Good times find ways to win," Jordan Staal said. "It's about staying focused on what we had to accomplish."
"That was probably the toughest one all year. You could just feel it. The guys had pretty much given everything they had all year, and they knew we were in the playoffs. It was a tough game, even though there was stuff riding on it," Brind'Amour said. "I still give them credit. We came out and won a game. It certainly wasn't our best, but this group, they find ways right now."
Perhaps playing a little looser with the knowledge they had already clinched a berth in the playoffs, the Hurricanes came out and earned a 2-0 lead.
Warren Foegele opened the scoring at the 9:20 mark of the first period with his second goal in as many games. After a centering feed bounced off Lucas Wallmark in between the circles, Foegele jumped on the loos puck to snap it blocker side past Carter Hart.
Video: CAR@PHI: Foegele snaps one past Hart from slot
A little over two minutes later, Justin Faulk netted his second in as many games as well. He jumped into the rush and was the beneficiary of another broken play, as he gathered a bouncing puck in the slot and went bar down for his 11th of the season.
Video: CAR@PHI: Faulk goes top shelf on Hart
"The boys did a great job finding the back of the net," Staal said.
A wild first period continued with both teams trading tallies - Oskar Lindblom for Philadelphia and Teuvo Teravainen for the Canes - to make it a 3-1 game after 20 minutes.
Video: CAR@PHI: Teravainen converts on second try
"Getting the lead is always important in this league. I think [the Flyers] came out a little flat, and then they got going," Brind'Amour said. "We gave them a little momentum because we were terrible really after the first period. We never got anything going, and they got rolling."
The Flyers got some more push back in the second period and tied the game at three with goals from Travis Konecny and Sean Couturier.
But it was Staal answering back for the Hurricanes, just about 90 seconds after Couturier's power-play goal evened the score.
Video: CAR@PHI: Staal restores lead for Hurricanes
"Jordan was phenomenal, really," Brind'Amour said. "He does what he does, and now he's on the scoresheet. Pretty impressive."
The Hurricanes took a 4-3 lead to the locker room after 40 minutes and then maintained it for the balance of the game.
"They played us hard," Staal said. "We gutted it out at the end there, and Mac played great to keep us at 4-3 for a while there. It was a good win."
Video: CAR@PHI: McElhinney closes pads to stop Couturier
"They're over there trying to earn some jobs and get some points. They're trying to score at any cost. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of structure in some of these games," said Curtis McElhinney, who made 28 saves in his 20th win of the season. "It got away from us a little bit, but I thought we held on nicely to get that fourth one."
The Hurricanes finish the 2018-19 regular season with a 46-29-7 record and 99 points, the second-most points in franchise history.
"It's a lot of fun, and it's not done yet," McElhinney said.
"No one is going to remember this game come tomorrow," Brind'Amour said. "I'm happy the guys got the win, and now we'll turn the page."
Up next? It's the Stanley Cup Playoffs. A full schedule will be released on Sunday morning.