Whether teams didn’t make the playoffs by just a couple points or a lot, some losses stand out more than others as reasons for their demise. Here are costly defeats for teams that saw their playoff hopes dwindle down the stretch…
Feb. 22, 4-3 SO loss vs. NY Rangers… The Hurricanes let a late lead slip away and lost in a shootout against the team that barely beat them out.
Apr. 9, 6-2 loss vs. Tampa Bay… With the chance to clinch a playoff spot in a ‘win-and-you’re-in’ scenario, the ‘Canes were unable to capitalize. They went down 4-0 and it was too big of a hole to climb out of.
Mar. 8, 4-3 OT loss at NY Islanders; Mar. 17, 4-0 loss at Florida… Ron Wilson’s Leafs put together a solid post All-Star Game stretch, but two defeats at the hands of the cellar-dwelling Islanders and Panthers proved costly in their pursuit of the final playoff spot.
Jan. 9, 4-3 OT loss at Carolina; Feb. 5, 4-3 OT loss at Carolina; Feb. 13, 3-2 loss vs. Carolina… Even though the Thrashers’ season was already slipping away, three tight losses to the hard-charging Hurricanes were paralyzing in trying to turn things around.
- New Jersey
Mar. 8, 2-1 loss vs. Ottawa; Mar. 17, 3-1 loss at Ottawa… The Devils were just starting to become a threat to the Eastern Conference playoff picture, but a pair of regulation losses to the lowly Senators less than 10 days apart put a halt to their great second half run.
Apr. 10, 5-3 loss at Minnesota… Similarly to Carolina, the Stars would have made the playoffs with a win over a team with nothing to play for. But they weren’t clutch in key moments, and the Wild made them pay.
Mar. 23, 3-2 OT loss vs. Anaheim… This loss was a dagger in Dallas’ heart. They were tied with the surging Ducks in the standings, and they blew a lead in the final seconds and proceeded to lose in overtime. After this loss, you knew they were in danger.
Mar. 20, 5-4 OT loss at Anaheim… This game was the start of a crucial three-game swing in California. The Flames lost all three, but it started with a roller-coaster loss in Anaheim. They trailed 3-0 in the first period, took a 4-3 lead in the third, only to lose in overtime.
- St. Louis
Nov. 10, 8-1 loss at Columbus… There may not have been a better team in the first month of the season, but this ugly loss in Columbus was costly. Not only did it trigger a bad 3-8-2 stretch, but T.J. Oshie broke his ankle in a meaningless late-game scrum.
Mar. 10, 4-0 loss at Nashville; Mar. 11, 4-0 loss at Dallas… The Wild were sitting in 10th place in the West, within striking distance of a playoff spot. But these pair of shutout losses on back-to-back nights to teams they were battling with was the beginning of an eight-game skid.
Nov. 26, 2-1 loss vs. Detroit; Nov. 28, 4-2 loss at Detroit… The Jackets looked like a playoff team through 20 games (14-6-0), but they fell apart after back-to-back losses to Detroit. They went 3-9-3 between then and Dec. 26.
Feb. 27, 3-2 loss at Nashville… Scott Arniel’s club was making one last-ditch effort to make the playoffs after a great stretch following the All-Star break. But it’s been downhill (3-11-7) ever since their 16th straight loss in Nashville, in which they lost late in regulation.
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