RALEIGH, N.C. – For the second straight game at home, the Carolina Hurricanes dug a hole for themselves and couldn’t climb out of it.
It was only two days prior when the Hurricanes were unable to complete a comeback against the Washington Capitals.
It looked as though nothing had changed with a day of practice as they suffered another loss, a 3-1 result against the Tampa Bay Lightning at PNC Arena on Sunday.
Lightning keeper Andrei Vasilevskiy made 28 stops to earn the win while Petr Mrazek stopped 23 pucks in the loss for the Hurricanes.
It took until the third period for Carolina to end the Lightning netminder’s shutout bid when Andrei Svechnikov sniped his 18th goal of the season with 8:12 remaining in the game.
Before that, Mitchell Stevens, Steven Stamkos, and Brayden Point all netted goals to create a 3-0 deficit that the Hurricanes worked to overcome, but couldn’t.
“We weren’t ready to play – at the end of the day, the first two periods we didn’t do anything,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said.
“We can’t expect to win that way. We were flat. Tough to find someone who was having a great game out of our group. Disappointing for sure.”
Déjà vu all over again
On Friday, captain Jordan Staal said it, and following the game, assistant captain Jaccob Slavin said it: “We dug ourselves a hole we couldn’t get out of.”
The numbers don’t lie.
Heading into this matchup against the Lightning, Carolina held a 3-9-0 record when trailing after one period.
Those numbers became relevant when the Hurricanes gave up goals to Stevens and Stamkos just over two minutes apart and trailed 2-0 after barely five minutes of play.
Trailing after two, the success prediction of earning a win didn’t appear much better at 4-10-0.
Thus each of those stat lines clicked upwards in the loss column.
What went wrong
After losing to two of the NHL’s more experienced and talent-laden teams, Carolina’s fine margin for success was fully exposed.
If the combination of speed in all three zones, pace of puck movement, and physicality is not at 100% for 60 minutes, the Hurricanes will play from behind.
“We gotta be ready to go on time. What makes us successful for a full 60 minutes, and there are some nights when we do that and dominate. But then there are nights like this where we’re digging ourselves a hole. We gave them everything they got. It’s not something we can afford to do.”
It’s not they are not trying, but keeping up the intensity level they need to play with is challenging.
Both opponents simply timed their pace of play accordingly, anticipated jumping into passing lanes to intercept passes and made the most of their chances against a defense that left Mrazek on his own for the most part.
“They played a good game, they played it simple,” Brind’Amour pointed out.
“They didn’t beat themselves and stuck to what they needed to do, got ahead. They didn’t press in the third, they just hung back. Good game by them.”
“You’ve got to weather that storm,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.
“For a shot-volume team, we kind of kept them off the board. To get the goals early and make them play catch-up is beneficial to us.”
Sitting in the first wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference currently, the Hurricanes (24-16-2) will have to try to replicate their latter-season finish from a year ago.
What makes that task especially daunting is that they hold a 3-8-1 record against Metropolitan Division opponents.
Though not time to panic, the message may be clearer that ‘the jig is up’.
Metro Division teams as well as the rest of league know what Carolina’s game is.
As they admit, if they don’t play ‘their way’, they’ll be chasing more than they’re leading.
That’s what has happened over this past weekend.
Now, seeing the worst that he’s seen more or less, it’s up to Brind’Amour to find a way to reenergize his group to reach another level.
“I haven’t had one of those (games) really all year. That was the first one where I can say I was really disappointed in that,” he concluded.
“The first one I can say all year that we had nothin’. Certainly weren’t ready to play the way we need to win.”
Notables: Carolina finished 0-4 on the power play, 32-136 (23.5%) overall…On the PK, the Hurricanes went 2-2, 124-152 (81.6%) overall…Svechnikov is now tied with Teuvo Teravainen for the team lead in points (41). Svechnikov has recorded more career goals (38) and points (78) than any other player selected in the 2018 NHL Draft… Also earning an assist on Svechnikov’s goal, defenseman Brett Pesce posted his 99th career assist tonight to extend his assist streak to three games. He has matched both the longest assist streak and longest point streak of his career.
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