RALEIGH, N.C. – The Carolina Hurricanes lost their third straight game, falling 4-1 to the Florida Panthers at PNC Arena on Tuesday.
Elias Lindholm’s first goal of the season was the only offense the Hurricanes could generate while goaltender Eddie Lack made his first regular season appearance, making 26 saves in the losing effort.
Nick Bjugstad, Connor Brickley, Aleksander Barkov, and Jussi Jokinen tallied the Panthers’ goals, three of which were scored in the third period, as netminder Al Montoya made 22 stops to earn his first career win over Carolina.
“They worked harder,” Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters said of Florida’s effort.
“They were more desperate, they were hungrier, and they played harder for sure.”
“I didn’t see that comin’,” Peters continued.
“Especially this early in the year, I don’t know where that came from. I have to try to figure that out. Obviously not ready, not mentally sharp.”
Florida took an early 1-0 lead at the 2:01 mark of the first period.
Bjugstad had time and space in the slot to beat Lack with a wrist shot high to the glove side after getting the set-up pass from Brian Campbell on a play originated by Brandon Pirri.
Though playing the night before, the Panthers outshot Carolina 14-7 during the period and carried the one-goal advantage into the intermission.
The Hurricanes picked up their forechecking pace early in the second period, but still had to defend against a skilled and tenacious Florida offensive push that kept Lack busy.
Lindholm finally created a chink in Montoya’s armor as his one-time snapper from the top of the right circle bulged the twine, high to the stick side.
Justin Faulk and Brad Malone earned assists on the play.
Both teams continued to provide one another ample power play opportunities with neither connecting through 40 minutes of play as the score remained tied 1-1.
Carolina finished 0-for-4 on the power play while Florida went scoreless on three man-advantage opportunities.
Both teams traded scoring chances early in the third period, the most significant of which was Lack making a big save on a one-time attempt by Dave Bolland just under four minutes in.
At the other end, Montoya handled his share of shots from the perimeter, but nothing that threatened to allude him.
Eventually, a three-goal spurt in a span of just under six minutes secured the win for the Panthers.
Brickley pounced on a rebound in Lack’s crease to give Florida a 2-1 lead at 12:18.
It was his first career NHL goal.
The rebound came off a shot from Dmitry Kulikov, an attempt from the corner to Lack’s left that he stopped with his pad before Brickley swiped it in while being checked by Victor Rask.
The Panthers quickly followed that effort up with another goal 50 seconds later to extend their lead to 3-1.
Another rebound in the crease allowed Barkov to tuck away Jaromir Jagr’s shot that Lack squeezed with his pads, but which still managed to get through.
“The second one there kind of dropped in front of me, I didn’t really get a good look at it,” Lack said.
“It’s just those little breakdowns that happen and just need to get better.”
Trailing by two, Carolina pulled Lack for the extra skater with just over two minutes to go on in an attempt to cut the lead down.
However, former Hurricanes forward Jussi Jokinen eventually got possession of the puck inside the Florida blue line and slid the puck the length of the ice and deposited it into the empty net as Florida completed the 4-1 finish with 1:47 left.
Now sitting with an 0-3 record, Carolina has managed to score only four goals, leaving one to wonder how the lack of offense has impacted the players this early in the season.
“Yeah, there’s been chances,” alternate captain Jordan Staal said.
“Not as many in this game, but throughout the season so far. It can get frustrating obviously. You have guys last year who were snake bitten, including myself. We gotta find a way to score goals if we wanna win games. It is a tight league, it is tight checking, but we’re gonna need guys to step up and get that puck to that net and bury some ugly goals.”
It seems early for a lack of confidence to come over this team, but that is something that will only be cured by one thing according to Peters – hard work.
“The confidence will come when you work hard for the good things,” Peters said.
“You can’t cheat the game…they know. There’s not gonna be too many people sleeping well tonight, I wouldn’t think. We’ll address it in the morning, two days of practice, and then go from there.”
Notes: Faulk’s assist on Lindholm’s goal was his team-leading third point of the season…Carolina is currently 1-for-13 (7.6%) on the power play and 6-for-7 (85.7%) on the penalty kill after three games played.