RALEIGH, N.C. – Sometimes you got it, sometimes you don’t.
But when that’s compounded with taking careless stick penalties and giving your opponent better opportunities to score, it’s no surprise you’ll be chasing the game.
That’s what happened Saturday night when the Carolina Hurricanes conceded a 4-2 loss to the Florida Panthers in front of a near-capacity crowd at PNC Arena.
With only two goals posted from Nino Niedereitter and Lucas Wallmark, both in the third period, the finish on the effort simply was not enough and came too late.
“That’s the frustrating part of the game – we didn’t get the bounces tonight,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour pointed out.
“I thought our guys played hard. Their goalie was great. Gotta give him a lot of credit, he made a ton of really nice saves. Give them credit for blocking a lot of shots, sacrificing and doing the things necessary to win a game. But I thought our game was solid. We play like that, we’re gonna get more wins than losses.”
Lots of work, no reward
While Hurricanes starter Petr Mrazek contended with 22 shots, Florida goaltender Chris Driedger faced 44 while his defense helped to block another 23 from getting close to him.
The Hurricanes’ inability to finish plays allowed the Panthers to capitalize, opening the game’s scoring to take a 1-0 lead on Evgenii Dadonov’s top-corner finish.
A giveaway pass from Jake Gardiner found Brian Boyle’s stick and a stretch pass through the neutral zone put the former Carolina free agent on his way towards Mrazek.
Sticks up, man down
While only trailing by a goal after 20 minutes, a high sticking call on Andrei Svechnikov allowed Boyle to score his fifth of the season and the margin extended to two goals.
Carolina’s hustle continued to outpace Florida’s, but the Panthers flexed more muscle and continued to agitate the Hurricanes to take more unnecessary, and eventually costly penalties.
Another high sticking call and additional unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to Svechnikov came following a scrum with Brett Connolly late in the second period.
The young Russian’s frustration got the better of him, coming down with his blade right on Connolly’s face and igniting a small tete a tete that included teammate Joel Edmundson and Florida’s Josh Brown.
The end result was another Panthers power play goal from Jonathan Huberdeau at 30 seconds into the third that extended the Florida lead to 3-0.
“It certainly helped getting that one right off the bat in the third, getting the three-goal lead,” Panthers coach Joel Quennville said.
“This team is dangerous, they pressed and had great zone time. We had them in our end a bit there and some timely goals in that area, and Boyle at the front of the net – nice to see the power play kick in.”
Too high a summit to reach
Niedereitter’s fifth goal of the season came as the midpoint of the frame approached and infused some energy into an unusually more sedate crowd than usual.
Hopes for an epic comeback were stalled as Noel Acciari’s seventh goal in three games put Florida up 4-1 with 9:19 remaining.
Wallmark’s sixth goal of the year two minutes later brought an ever slight glimmer of hope.
However, even with Mrazek out of the net with ample time remaining, the extra man didn’t alleviate the Hurricanes’ inability to penetrate shots past the Panthers’ defensive perimeter.
The loss was Carolina’s first in regulation in their last six games following a 4-0-1 run on its recent Western road trip.
“I don’t think we played terrible,” captain Jordan Staal said.
“Yeah, there was mistakes out there, I thought we worked hard, and it just didn’t go our way. I think in general we take too many penalties as a group. I think we can keep our sticks down, checkin’ with our legs and not our sticks. I think our PK is kind of run into the ground. On that road trip I thought we killed a lot, probably too much, and it showed tonight.”
Notables: Carolina finished 1-3 on the power play, 27-113 (23.9%) overall…On the PK, the Hurricanes went 1-3, 110-130 (84.6%) overall…Dougie Hamilton recorded his 200th career NHL assist in his 541st career game. He has now posted 35 points (12g, 23a) this season, marking the most points by a defenseman through the first 36 games of a season in team history (since relocation)…Erik Haula returned to the lineup after missing 19 of Carolina’s last 21 games due to a recurring knee injury…Teuvo Teravainen posted his team-leading 29th assist of the season and extended his assist streak to four games.
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