PITTSBURGH - With third place in the Metropolitan Division up for grabs, the Carolina Hurricanes dropped a 3-1 decision to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Jaccob Slavin notched a power-play goal for the Hurricanes in the third period, but the Penguins had already built a three-goal lead.
Here are five takeaways from Sunday evening in Pittsburgh.
The Penguins had the early jump in this one - and could have taken an early 1-0 lead, had Patric Hornqvist not fanned on his own rebound - but the Hurricanes settled in and began to buzz a bit.
That momentum stalled, though, when the Penguins broke the ice off a mad scramble in the crease. A number of sticks were reaching for the puck, which appeared to be somewhat covered by Curtis McElhinney's blocker, but it was Garrett Wilson who poked the puck in. The Hurricanes challenged for goaltender interference, but the original call stood, and the Pens had a 1-0 lead.
"Nobody has any clue what goaltender interference is, so if it's close, you challenge it," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "There was hacking and whacking going on there. Certainly worth a challenge."
Later, Matt Cullen walked in on a 2-on-1, held on to the puck, fired and scored to double his teams lead with 75 seconds left in the first period.
"It obviously wasn't a great start for us. We weren't happy with that, and we dug ourselves a hole," Slavin said. "We didn't really get to our game until the second period. You can't be doing that at this time of year. We've got to be on for a full 60."
"Just didn't have any jump. We were pretty flat and didn't make smart decisions. That cost us," Justin Faulk said. "We just weren't able to bounce back."
"Unfortunately, we didn't start the way we wanted," Brind'Amour said. "We didn't really get to our game until about halfway through. Then, you're pretty much just chasing it, and it's tough."
Though the Canes began to press a good bit late in the second period, the Penguins maintained their 2-0 lead.
The next goal in the third period was going to be big, and it was unfortunately the Penguins who scored it via Hornqvist on a quick shot off a drop pass from Dominik Simon.
"Then you're pretty much done. It's tough," Brind'Amour said. "We kept battling, though. I give the guys credit. They didn't quit. They kept going and threw a lot of pucks at the net."
After going 0-for-15 on the power play in their previous nine games, the Hurricanes connected on the man advantage for the second straight game.
Slavin got the Canes on the board on the power play in the third with a blast from the point and Jordan Staal providing traffic in front of the net.
Video: CAR@PIT: Slavin gets Hurricanes on the board with PPG
"We had a lot of bodies in front," Slavin said. "Just trying to get it through, and it happened to go in."
This, a night after the Canes were a perfect 2-for-2 on the man advantage against Philadelphia.
"We know we need to be good on the power play and special teams," Faulk said. "It's important, and we know we need that going if we have any chance moving forward."
The Hurricanes have been relatively healthy during the month of March, but they suffered a big blow in Pittsburgh.
In the second period, Jake Guentzel shoved Calvin de Haan to the ice on an innocent looking play. De Haan was clearly in a lot of pain as he got to his feet and quickly skated off to the room.
He did not return with what was deemed an upper-body injury, and Brind'Amour had this update after the game: "I haven't talked to the trainers yet, but I think he's going home, so it's not good."
Haydn Fleury would be the likely candidate to join the Hurricanes in Toronto in time for Tuesday's game.
I asked Brind'Amour prior to the game if he had done any scoreboard watching on Saturday night, and he admitted he couldn't help but peek at the out-of-town scores as they rolled in. Montreal beat Winnipeg. Columbus beat Nashville. Everyone kept pace in the race.
"We're not getting help," he said. "We're going to have to win our games, that's just it. Take care of our business and don't rely on anybody else."
Despite the loss to Pittsburgh, that statement remains true: The Hurricanes, now in the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, still control their own destiny heading into the final three games of the regular season. Games in hand are no more, but if the Canes win their games, it doesn't matter what else happens.
"We know where we're at. We know every point matters right now," Faulk said. "There's no excuse not to show up tonight, and there definitely isn't one not to show up on Tuesday."
The Hurricanes will take on the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday.
"We've got to flush it … and come back Tuesday ready to play," Slavin said. "Only a couple games left. Nothing to save it for. We've got to get to the playoffs."