R.L. Bynum, Correspondent
RALEIGH, N.C. — It’s a familiar storyline that is getting old for the Carolina Hurricanes, and it came up again Thursday night.
The Canes created plenty of scoring chances but couldn’t cash in enough.
The phrase “mental toughness” kept coming up as the explanation after a 4-1 loss to the previously struggling Detroit Red Wings.
The Canes dominated the first period, yet found themselves behind a goal.
They couldn’t overcome that frustration.
When they got sloppy in the second period, Detroit took full advantage.
That led to another disheartening loss, this time to a Detroit club that had lost four consecutive games, and was playing backup goalie Jonathan Bernier.
“It felt like we should really be leading,” Justin Williams said of the feeling during the first intermission.
“We’re not mentally tough enough to be like, all right, that didn’t go our way, let’s stay with it, though. Mentally, we need to stick with it. We got off of it a little bit in the second, just enough and we couldn’t crawl back.”
As the captain, it’s part of Williams’ job to make sure the team doesn’t fall off mentally.
But he can’t do it all.
“For the most part, an individual has to figure it out themselves,” he said.
It comes at a time when Carolina is inching closer to the bottom of the Metro Division standings. With three home games in four days heading into the holiday, the Canes knew they needed to build momentum before the break.
Apparently, some of them wanted a little too much.
They took too many chances after coming up empty despite a 14-7 first-period shot advantage.
Andrei Svechnikov got Carolina’s lone goal in the second period to tie the game on a high-powered shot that beat Bernier on the glove side.
A review showed Carolina was perilously close to being offside, but the score counted.
At that point, Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour says that his team didn’t play with discipline.
“After we got it tied up, and then for whatever reason, we had a stretch there where we stopped playing the game plan and we went away from it,” he said.
Carolina goalie Petr Mrazek, who beat his former team 3–1 on Oct. 22, couldn’t get it done one game after shutting out the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday.
But he didn’t get many breaks, though, as two of Detroit’s three goals were deflected in.
Mrazek got screened on a power-play goal by Nicklas Kronwall in the first period.
He made a nice kick save on Frans Nielsen in the second period, but Nielsen tipped in a shot by Nick Jensen to put Detroit up 2-1 less than a minute later.
A seemingly innocent wrister from Tyler Bertuzzi deflected in off the Canes’ Teuvo Teravainen early in the third period to make it 3-1.
“We didn’t have a good enough pushback after their third goal,” Faulk said.
Detroit added an empty-net goal from Dylan Larkin.
“If you watch, in the first period we don’t have any turnovers hardly at all,” Brind’Amour said.
“It’s in their zone, we’re going on the forecheck when there’s no rush opportunities. Second period, you watch, there’s turnover after turnover. It’s guys trying to make passes on their own end instead of, if you got nothing, get it out.”
While Brind’Amour wasn’t questioning his team’s effort, defenseman Justin Faulk seemed to suggest it wasn’t there consistently.
“Just [taking] shifts off, I think,” said Faulk.
“Lackadaisical plays. We get in position where we’re not scoring and then we try to do a little bit too much or get a little bit fancy and stray off what we’re expected to do as a group. Then it kind of blows everything up. At the same time, if that push isn’t there when things don’t go your way, teams are going to feed on that and they’re going to see that.”
Feed on it, the Red Wings did.
They controlled play in the final two periods and could tell that Carolina was pressing. Brind’Amour said it was evident.
“Guys are squeezing the sticks,” he said.
“There’s no doubt about it. It’s a fact. You can feel it on the bench when, after the first, we had a couple of breakaways. It was a very good period and we were down one. “
The 39-24 shot advantage just didn’t transfer to the scoreboard.
“We missed the net a lot,” he said.
“When you don’t score, you try to be too cute. Sometimes, you have to get on the net.”
A lot of credit goes to Bernier for making several good saves.
“No, the start wasn’t good enough at all and you know sometimes when you’re in a bit of a losing stretch, that happens and you have to find a way to grind out of it,” said Detroit coach Jeff Blashill, who said Bernier “came up huge in the first, and I thought we got way better as the game went along.”
Now it gets much tougher for Carolina on Saturday when the Pittsburgh Penguins will give it much stiffer competition than it faced Thursday.
Brind’Amour said it will come down to being mentally strong.
“We had a little talk after it,” he said.
“Guys got to be mentally tough enough to stick with it. We tried to do too much at times and then it gets away, and then that’s when we’re not any good.”
They’ll have to be good against the Pens.
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