The Carolina Hurricanes entered the Eastern Conference Final with confidence that they could advance to their first Stanley Cup Final since 2006 — instead, they were swept by the Florida Panthers, losing 4-3 on Wednesday night at FLA Live Arena and 4-0 in the series.
The Hurricanes have now lost 12 straight Eastern Conference Final games, the latest defeat leaving many of the players numb after failing to win even a single game against the No. 8 seeded Panthers.
“It [stinks],” Hurricanes forward Sebastian Aho said, per NHL.com's Tom Gulitti. “It's almost a little confusing what happened. I don't know.”
“We were right there,” Jordan Staal echoed, who lost to brothers Eric and Marc. “It didn't feel like it was a 4-0 sweep series. That's kind of their game, though. They definitely keep you to the outside and keep you from getting those second chances. Then, they make you pay going down the other way quickly and have got guys that can score goals and make you pay at the wrong time.”
Incredibly, Florida and Carolina were tied or separated by a single goal for all but 2:40 in the ECF, a stat that truly proves the series could have gone either way.
But it went the way of the Panthers in all four games, due largely to the brick wall that was Sergei Bobrovsky and three game-winning goals from superstar Matthew Tkachuk. He highlighted it by winning the series with just four seconds left in the third period of Game 4.
“That's no excuse because we're right there,” Carolina forward Jordan Martinook explained. “They swept us, but two overtime games, they score four seconds left and [Game 3] one goal when we were dominating. I don't know what I feel right now. It doesn't feel real.”
It'll be back to the drawing board for the Hurricanes, who likely should have had at least one game go their way but instead find themselves unable to find any type of success in the Eastern Conference Final.
Carolina was swept by the Boston Bruins in 2019, swept by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009, and now swept by the Florida Panthers in 2023.