By Peter Koutroumpis
RALEIGH, N.C. – Someone shut the valve off.
The overwhelming rush of offensive output that the Hurricanes released during their first seven games of the 2018-2019 season has dried up.
At least that’s what happened during a 3-1 loss to the visiting Colorado Avalanche at PNC Arena on Saturday.
“It is a long year, you’re gonna have ups and downs,” Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour said.
“At the end of the end of the day, it’s just the process of how we’re playin’. And I don’t wanna be negative or anything because I think our game is there. It’s just a matter of gettin’ a few bounces here, there.”
With tens of thousands attending the North Carolina State Fair going on across the street, the dedicated 11,753 who decided to take a break from amusement rides and mindless consumption of high-calorie fair food, unfortunately left with a pit in their stomach after this one.
Micheal Ferland’s fifth goal of the season wasn’t enough as Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog scored twice, while Nathan MacKinnon added one to cinch up the win for the visitors.
Landeskog caught goaltender Curtis McElhinney on the stick side on both tallies while MacKinnon put one over his glove-hand shoulder.
Colorado carried a 3-0 lead late in the third until Ferland cut the deficit to two with 2:33 remaining.
The push came too late and it just wasn’t enough.
Just a little bit more needed
What was missing in particular throughout this game for Carolina was its inability to outskate and outmuscle the Avs.
It wasn’t a lack of effort.
But playing against just as fast and talented a team as Colorado, a little extra juice was needed.
Carolina at times scrambled to finish offensive chances or to break up those from the Avalanche.
According to captain Justin Williams, there were enough scoring opportunities created out there to win – a fact that 43 shots on goal could justify.
“Did we create enough second and thirds? I’m not quite sure about that,” he said.
“We got behind early and we couldn’t quite get it back. We just need to be a little bit better, a little bit tighter – just a tiny bit hungrier. It’s a game of inches around the net and we need to create those seconds and thirds.”
Hitting a wall
Colorado goalkeeper Philipp Grubauer denied 40 shots and helped hand the Hurricanes their third loss in a row.
“I wouldn’t consider that guy a backup goalie,” Williams said.
“Any goalie in this league is pretty talented. He made some great saves tonight. Kudos – you gotta tip your cap sometimes.”
Trailing 1-0, Micheal Ferland’s breakaway chance off a Teuvo Teravainen lead pass could have changed the dynamic of the game with 14:05 to go in the second period.
But Grubauer stoned him on that opportunity.
Lack of power
Finishing 0-5 on the power play didn’t enhance the Hurricanes scoring any either.
What appeared as holding onto the puck longer than many in the crowd preferred, the result of not scoring eventually resulted in frustrated boos filling the air.
With nine shots on goal in man-advantage situations, Carolina just couldn’t get a puck through the Avs PK unit, nor past Grubauer.
“Special teams is kickin’ us in the butt right now,” Williams said.
“We’ll rectify that. We did some pretty good things tonight. We didn’t score. Sometimes you put up eight, sometimes you put up a goose egg. But, if we keep doing it right, we feel that we’re gonna be alright in the end.”
Carolina has now brought itself back to a more level position at 4-3-1.
Realizing that a lot of work remains to be done, Brind’Amour is not panicking.
And if the coach isn’t losing it yet, then the team may just be able to weather its first losing streak well enough.
Time will tell.
“You just don’t want the losses to bleed and make you feel like, ‘oh my god, we’re not playing that well’,” he said.
“In my opinion, we’re playing very well and we’re gettin’ really good efforts out of most of our guys. A bounce here or there, we’re talkin’ about a whole different situation right now.”
Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport