By Peter Koutroumpis
RALEIGH, N.C. – According to Carolina Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters, winning and losing hurts.
Following a 5-1 loss to the Las Vegas Golden Knights at PNC Arena on Sunday, the coach pointed out that the team’s individual and collective efforts were inconsistent, and they paid the price accordingly for it at the hands of the NHL’s top team.
“When we play properly and are committed and competitive, then we have a chance,” he said.
“When we don’t do that for 60 minutes, then we don’t. It’s pretty simple for me to see. We can’t have passengers. You gotta provide that primary dimension that you’re here for.”
Defenseman Jaccob Slavin scored the lone goal for Carolina, the one blemish on Vegas netminder Marc-Andre Fleury’s 27-save outing for his 11th win of the season.
In outshooting the Hurricanes 33-28, consecutive goals from Pierre-Eduard Bellemare, Collin Miller, and Jonathan Marchesssault had Carolina trailing 3-0 after the opening 13 minutes of play.
After calling a timeout, Peters pulled starting goalkeeper Scott Darling and inserted Cam Ward to send a message.
It wasn’t the first goal, nor the second that were troublesome to accept.
“I thought there was a stretch there in the first when the game was up and down and goin’ pretty good – it was high end,” Peters said.
“But, we didn’t stay with it.”
The third marker, a snipe that Marchessault buried high over Darling’s trapper with ample time and space to do so, was the back-breaker.
Before they realized, a three-goal deficit prompted the change.
Near the end of the period, after Elias Lindholm proceeded to lay two solid body checks, the second on Marchessault, the Vegas forward took exception to it, and both players dropped their gloves, grappling and falling to the ice together.
Having gone scoreless on two previous power play opportunities, Slavin’s one-timer on a feed from Jeff Skinner beat Fleury as the man-advantage provided by Marchessault’s additional roughing penalty put Carolina on the board with 45 seconds remaining.
“Lindy gave us a spark there with a nice finish,” Hurricanes captain Justin Faulk said.
“It gave us a little bit of life, and to score right after that was huge.”
However, trailing 3-1, Carolina couldn’t build on its momentum in the second and instead fell behind by three again when James Neal scored his 21st of the season with 6:18 remaining in the period.
Vegas kept the Hurricanes scoreless for the rest of the game and capped of the win with a final goal from Brandon Leipsic that made it 5-1 at the 10:20 mark.
Giving up too many goals in their recent stretch of losing five of their last seven games, and following up a 3-1 win in Detroit the night before with such a poor performance wasn’t inspiring for Peters, or many in the crowd of 15,303 on hand to witness it.
While the Hurricanes are 10-for-30 (33.3%) on the power play in nine games since Jan. 2 and have scored on the man-advantage in four consecutive games (1/12-1/21: 6-for-17), 5-on-5 scoring is now the trouble spot for this team.
Against the Golden Knights, a total of 13 players accumulated a rating of minus-1 or worse on the night, so there was collective culpability in the final result.
The numbers told the story as the coach put it.
It was painful to watch.
“Oh, it hurts,” he said.
When asked about how frustrated the Hurricanes are in their recent slide, including losing four straight at home in the New Year, Peters alluded to the fact that the only way to overcome it would be to focus on a different form of pain.
“Frustration is a good word, an accurate word for our team right now, but it’s something we’ve got to overcome,” Peters said.
“It’s desperation time now. We’re gonna go to Pitt, we’re gonna go to Montreal and come home and take a few days off (during the All-Star Break). It’s time. It’s time. In our division, you’ve seen streaky teams, you see teams out West streaking. So, everybody’s capable of it, if you’re willing to do it each and every night. It hurts. Winning consistently hurts. There’s a price to be paid – a physical price you have to pay to win.”
Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport