RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Carolina Hurricanes were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 4-0 loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final at PNC Arena on Thursday.
After missing the playoffs for nine straight seasons, the Hurricanes surged to the first wild card in the East with a 31-12-2 record from Dec. 31 to the end of the regular season.
They eliminated the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals in double overtime in Game 7 of the first round before sweeping the New York Islanders.
Video: Bruins sweep Hurricanes, clinch Cup Final berth
Here are 5 reasons the Hurricanes were eliminated:
1. Lack of discipline
Carolina committed undisciplined penalties that proved costly throughout the series. It had a 2-1 lead after two periods in Game 1, but center Jordan Staal (boarding) and defenseman Dougie Hamilton (roughing) took penalties that the Bruins converted into a 3-2 lead on the way to a 5-2 win.
The Boston power play capitalized on two penalties to forward Justin Williams in Game 2 on the way to a 6-2 win. The Hurricanes captain committed three of Carolina's seven penalties in Game 3, and gave the Bruins 8:21 of power-play time in a 2-1 loss.
2. Defensive coverage
Carolina's defensemen were the backbone of its success during the regular season and through the first two rounds of the playoffs, but the group struggled against Boston.
They had trouble sorting coverage on plays that converged at their net and allowed the Bruins' forwards to get behind them too often.
"Generally a sort-out needs to happen when someone isn't A, physical or B, in the right spot," defenseman Justin Faulk said before Game 3. "When we're not hard enough and we're not [checking] guys -- it doesn't mean lighting someone up, just being close -- that's being hard on someone. It doesn't give them any space, it doesn't give them any time."
Video: After their ECF loss, what's next for the Hurricanes?
3. Special teams
The Hurricanes penalty kill had no answer for the Boston power play, which went 7-for-15 in the series. Four of Boston's goals came in the first 24 seconds of a man-advantage.
"On teams like that, that are so talented, when you make a little error, it goes in your net," coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "It's on the tape, where 90 percent of the League, they don't make those passes. That's what happened, I felt like, over and over. That was a big part of the series. We knew that coming in and unfortunately it bit us."
Carolina's power play went 1-for-14, the lone goal coming from center Sebastian Aho on a redirection at the net in Game 1. The Hurricanes created some traffic in front of Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, but he was able to track most of the shots that were on net.
"In the end I think our special teams failed us," Staal said. "I'm on both of them so I've got to be better and a lot of guys have to be better."
4. Goal drought
Carolina had balanced scoring in the first and second rounds, but the goals dried up for the primary goal-scorers during the conference final.
Forward Teuvo Teravainen (six), forward Warren Foegele (five), Aho (four), Staal (four) and Williams (three) combined for 22 goals against the Capitals and Islanders, but those five players combined for three in four games against the Bruins, one each by Aho, Teravainen and Williams.
Rask, among the favorites for the Conn Smythe Trophy heading into the Cup Final, was outstanding, but Carolina was responsible for some of the modest output too. In Game 3 the Hurricanes missed on open looks at the net by Teravainen, Aho and forward Andrei Svechnikov, allowing the Bruins to solidify their hold on the series.
"I don't think we got to our game, not [in Game 4] or the whole series," Aho said. "We had good periods, but I feel like we could be better."
5. The goaltending choice
The Hurricanes were faced with a dilemma at the start of the series.
Petr Mrazek started the first nine games of the playoffs, but when he left Game 2 of the second round with a lower-body injury, Curtis McElhinney took over and went 3-0 to clinch the series against the Islanders.
Rather than continue with McElhinney for Game 1 against the Bruins, the decision was made to go back to Mrazek. He wasn't sharp, allowing a combined 10 goals on 52 shots in Games 1 and 2, including the first goal in each game. McElhinney, who started Games 3 and 4, allowed five goals on 53 shots in the series.
Riding Mrazek was a departure for the Hurricanes, who split the workload between Mrazek (40 starts) and McElhinney (33) during the regular season.
"We rotated all year," Brind'Amour said after Game 3. "We actually thought about rotating at the start of the playoffs just because, why wouldn't you? It had been working. [Mrazek] got hot there and we rode him out. I don't like taking guys out because they got injured, so we gave him a chance [against Boston]."
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