Bryan Bickell scored in a shootout on the final shot of his NHL career on Sunday, capping a whirlwind week in which he announced his retirement after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
The two-time Stanley Cup winner, who was diagnosed with MS in November, helped lift the Carolina Hurricanes to a 4-3 shootout win over the Philadelphia Flyers in the final game of the season for both teams.
"I think I sweated all the tears out, so I don't have much left," said the 31-year-old Canadian forward.
"It's been an emotional week leading into this day. Seeing my family here, all the people that supported me through it all, I'm just happy."
Bickell wasted no time collecting the puck at centre ice and coming down the middle of the rink before clanging a wrist shot off the post and past Flyers goaltender Anthony Stolarz in front of a crowd of 19,500 at the Flyers' Wells Fargo Center arena.
After the goal, Bickell skated back to the Hurricanes' bench where he was mobbed by his teammates.
"It was an emotional game," Hurricanes forward Teuvo Teravainen said after seeing Bickell score. "There has been a lot of tears in this locker room."
Said teammate Eddie Lack, "Obviously we wanted to get this one for Bicks. A really, really great career.
"He was probably the best teammate I've ever played with, just the presence he has in the locker room and the positivity he brings.
"We really wanted to win for him. I'm really, really happy we did."
It was a fitting end to a Stanley Cup champions' career, but the most touching moment of the game occurred during a stoppage 7:50 into the opening period when Bickell received a standing ovation from the Philadelphia fans and a farewell stick tap from players on both teams.
"That was nice getting the win, first and foremost. Seeing the Philly fans and their respect, giving me applause," Bickell said.
"It was nice to get the win and get the opportunity to shoot in the shootout. I haven't done that much in my career."
Bickell was chosen by Chicago Blackhawks in the second round (41st overall) of the 2004 NHL draft before going on to win Stanley Cups in 2013 and 2015.
- Hockey gods -
"I think the hockey gods stepped up there and gave me the opportunity," Bickell said of the shootout goal. "I was just happy to see that one go in. It's ideal to leave on a good foot."
Brock McGinn scored two goals in regulation and netted the eventual winner in the shootout between two teams who failed to make the playoffs.
Sebastian Aho sent the game into overtime when he scored a power-play goal with 5:10 remaining in regulation.
Dale Weise scored a pair of goals and Wayne Simmonds netted his team-high 31st goal for the Flyers.
Goaltender Lack stopped 41 shots to earn the win for the Hurricanes, who finished the season with 36-31-15 record.
"It's good to end the season doing it right," Carolina coach Bill Peters said.
The Flyers finished the season with a 39-33-10 record and 88 points, eight fewer than they had last season when they reached the postseason as a wild-card team.