In the second week of March, when the Carolina Hurricanes were leading the NHL’s Southeast Division, Jiri Tlusty received a call from his father.

Jiri Tlusty Sr. was in their native Czech Republic, excited about the Canes and making plans to come to the U.S.

“My dad was having a blast watching the games and said, ‘I’m going to shut down the farm and I’m going to come watch all the playoff games,’” Tlusty said Thursday.

The Tlusty farm will remain open. The Hurricanes, for the fourth straight season, won’t be in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Tlusty, like many of his teammates, is almost baffled by how quickly things turned for the worse this season, by how quickly and irretrievably the Canes fell.

Once 15-9-1, the Hurricanes are 17-24-3 after a 5-3 home loss against the Philadelphia Flyers Saturday night. They no longer have any hope of squeezing into the playoffs with a last-gasp push.

“The start of the season was amazing,” Tlusty said. “We can all question ourselves as to what happened. You go through the locker room and you see everyone, see so many great players. It’s just hard to believe we started the season like that and it slipped away like that.”

Many point to Cam Ward’s injury, which came March 3 in a road game at Florida. Ward, the Canes’ No. 1 goalie, suffered a third-degree knee sprain and was ruled out for remainder of the regular season.

“If you lose your No. 1 goaltender, that’s the hardest thing,” Tlusty said. “If you look at the NHL now, all the No. 1 goalies are playing well and it’s keeping (teams) winning.”

The injuries mounted. Defenseman Justin Faulk missed nine games in the past month with a knee injury. Defenseman Joni Pitkanen went down with a broken heel bone.

“We just weren’t able to overcome the injuries to the key guys that we lost,” Canes coach Kirk Muller said.

Initially, the Canes maintained their momentum with goalies Dan Ellis and Justin Peters, winning three of four games after Ward’s injury. But after a 3-2 loss to the Washington Capitals – in a home game Carolina led 2-0 at one point – the Canes began to slide.

They lost at Tampa Bay. They 2-1 in a shootout on the road against the New York Rangers.

Then the bottom fell out. In 11 of the next 12 games, the Canes lost in regulation, gaining no points.

“There’s a lot of factors, but the games we’ve won in the past month or so, Justin Peters gave us three or four big stops,” general manager Jim Rutherford said. “That’s really what you expect from a No. 1 goalie. You don’t get it as consistently from your No. 2 or No. 3 goalie.

“So there’s no question losing the No. 1 goalie in this league is difficult. … And losing Faulk and losing key defensemen at different times.”

But it’s more than the injuries, Rutherford said. When teams are winning, he said, you often win games you don’t deserve to win.

“In a losing streak,” he said, “you lose games you don’t deserve to lose. We went through a period there where there were four games where the other team’s goalie was the (game’s) first star.”