SUNRISE — They may not want to admit it, but when the Carolina Hurricanes rolled into Amerant Bank Arena Friday to face the Florida Panthers, a few of them may have been reminded of how last season ended.
In the slight chance anyone forgot, Carolina’s season ended May 24th in Sunrise.
With less than five seconds remaining in Game 4 of the NHL Eastern Conference finals, Matthew Tkachuk put one in from the left of the crease to clinch a sweep for his Panthers against those Hurricanes from North Carolina.
On Friday night, down 1-0, Florida tied up Carolina.
That first goal from the home team?
None other than the very same Matthew Tkachuk who scored from almost the same spot on the ice six months later.
Deja vu all over again?
Sentiment was the least of Carolina’s concern last night as the Panthers rolled to a 5-2 win in Sunrise.
For a team which had won five of its last six, Carolina was flat from the opening bell.
Coach Rod Brind’Amour was seething and it had nothing to do with recalling an unpleasant memory.
“Our top guys were not very good tonight,’’ he said, perhaps thinking about how Sebastian Aho — despite bringing Carolina within a goal in the second, ended a minus-3.
“You’re not going to win if they’re not consistently at least matching the other team’s top guys. You watch those top guys. They were all over it. I don’t know where our top guys were tonight.”
Brind’Amour became particularly cranky asked if there was any pregame discussion about redemption after last season’s finale.
“I don’t give a crap about last year,’’ he said. “That has nothing to do with tonight.”
Perhaps it was not the best time to bring up that subject.
Jordan Martinook was a little bit more diplomatic.
“Our whole group was kind of off,” he said.
He was not specifically asked about the irony of last season but brought it up himself.
“It’s disappointing because that’s the team that ended our season last year and you want to come out and you want to show that it hurt you last year,’’ Martinook said. “We didn’t do enough to win that game.”
Carolina’s problems may go beyond just a clunker of a game.
This is a team which was considered a strong Stanley Cup contender.
They were hurt by injuries to Andrei Svechnikov, Sebastian Aho and Brett Pesce, all of whom are back in the lineup.
Their biggest health worry now is the blood-clotting issue being faced by No. 1 goalie Frederik Andersen.
Of the three netminders who played this year, Andersen, Antti Raanta and Pyotr Kochetkov have sub-.900 save percentages.
The beauty of a tough loss is that the sun will still come up and there will be a game tomorrow.
Or, in Carolina’s case, tonight.
Hockey players are noted for their ability to utilize amnesia and Carolina will be helped with that when they visit the Lightning tonight.
For those still concerned about redemption, sit back and relax.
Florida and Carolina continues to build as a pretty great rivalry.
Unfortunately, these two combatants will not meet again until February — with the final two games of the regular season between the two in Raleigh.
Let the countdown begin.
PANTHERS ON DECK
CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS @ FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Sunday, 1 p.m.
- Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM; WBZT 1230-AM (West Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); WCZR 101.7-FM (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL/Panthers App
- Last Season: Tied 1-1
- This season (Chicago leads 1-0): @Chicago 5, Florida 2 (Nov. 4); @Florida, Sunday
- All-time regular season series: Blackhawks lead 29-18-4, 3 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Tuesday at San Jose, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN+)