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End of the road for the Canes but not the end of the world

Canes’ Justin Williams: ‘I didn’t think it would be done quite like this’

The Canes' Justin Williams reflects on the season after the Boston Bruins eliminated the Carolina Hurricanes in game four of the Eastern Conference finals at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C. Thursday, May 16, 2019.
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The Canes' Justin Williams reflects on the season after the Boston Bruins eliminated the Carolina Hurricanes in game four of the Eastern Conference finals at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C. Thursday, May 16, 2019.

There’s no music when you lose.

The Carolina Hurricanes’ locker room, after Thursday’s season-ending 4-0 loss to the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference finals, was relatively quiet.

The Bruins celebrated on the ice, posing for the customary picture with the Prince of Wales Trophy — without touching it. They’re on their way back to the Stanley Cup finals for the third time in nine years.

The Canes, after playoff series wins over the Washington Capitals and the New York Islanders, are done. In the locker room, there were some questions from the media, mostly in a library voice, and the soft shuffling of feet.

Canes owner Tom Dundon, in his signature baseball hat and black pullover, came in. He had handshakes and thank yous for the players.

Even the workout area, a postgame staple the other 96 games of the season, was quiet with nary a 45-pound plate clanging or a “Keiser chop” to be found.

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Carolina Hurricanes’ Justin Faulk (27) skates away from his teammates as the Boston Bruins celebrate their Eastern Conference championship sweeping the Hurricanes 4-0 on Thursday, May 16, 2019 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C. Robert Willett rwillett@newsobserver.com

While veteran forward Jordan Staal talked with the media on left side of the locker room and goalie Curtis McElhinney had a scrum of his own on the right.

There wasn’t too much to say after Boston racked up two more power-play goals in the second period and then added some superfluous insurance in the third. The Bruins finished the series 7 of 15 on the power play, while the Canes were just 1 of 14.

In the middle of the locker room, back in front of his stall, captain Justin Williams sat with his elementary school-aged kids. His son, Jaxon, and his daughter, Jade, consoled their dad.

Williams sat in his full uniform, the alternate black ones which had been good luck for so much of the season for the Canes. He wore a gray and green Whalers cap. He was not quite ready to take any of it off.

Williams’ eyes and nose were red. His son cried with him. Williams put his captain role to the side and put his dad hat on.

“It’s not the end of the world,” he said to his kids. “It will just sting for a couple of days.”

Williams even found a bright side to the end of the Canes’ improbable playoff run, two rounds longer than even coach Rod Brind’Amour had figured for one of the NHL’s youngest teams.

“I won’t have to take any more road trips,” Williams said with a smile to his kids.

Williams hugged his daughter and told both of kids he loved them. He then explained to them, it was his turn to stand up and to talk with the media.

Williams talked about the strength of the Bruins’ special teams and the Canes’ shortcomings in being swept in four games. He talked about handling carpool duty. He talked about his hockey family and the crowd and seeing the community come together, just like it did in 2006 when helped the Canes win the Stanley Cup.

The Canes had only been to the playoffs once since then. Williams, who’s 37, went to Los Angeles and won the Stanley Cup two more times. He had two more successful years in Washington before coming back to North Carolina.

“Right now, it hurts and it will for a little while,” Williams said.

But it’s not the end of the world, just as he said to his kids, just the end of the season.

The media cleared away from Williams’ stall and Dundon came over. There was one more handshake, one more thank you to be had.

Joe Giglio covers N.C. State and has worked at The N&O since 1995. He has regularly reported on the ACC since 2005.

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