The Carolina Hurricanes, suddenly caught up in a four-game losing streak, could be reaching a boiling point.
A players-only meeting was held Saturday after the Canes’ 4-3 road loss to the Vancouver Canucks. It wasn’t a first this season, center Sebastian Aho said, but it was needed.
“Obviously we’re not happy and we’re frustrated,” Aho said after the meeting. “We’ve done a lot of talking. The time is now to show to us and to everyone what we’re capable of, and the only way out is together.”
After Saturday’s NHL games, the Hurricanes (14-12-1) were sixth in the Metropolitan Division standings and not in a playoff position. They’re 6-10-0 on the road and next play Tuesday in Ottawa before going to Detroit.
The one-goal loss to Vancouver was the Hurricanes’ third on the road trip. The Canes were beaten 2-1 in Winnipeg, blown out 6-1 at Edmonton, then could not hold a two-goal lead in the final period in Calgary in losing 3-2 to the Flames.
The Canes fell behind 2-0 and 3-1 on Saturday but tied the score 3-3 early in a third on a Stefan Noesen goal. The Canucks quickly reclaimed the lead on a wraparound by forward Elias Pettersson and finished off the victory behind goalie Thatcher Demko after an evenly matched third.
“One of their best players got us on a nice individual effort,” Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour said.
While not naming names, Brind’Amour again said some of the Canes’ best players are not getting it done.
“Our top guys are not scoring,” he said. “They’re not really contributing offensively, which is making it hard.”
After scoring twice in the 6-2 win over Buffalo at PNC Arena and flirting with a hat trick, Aho does not have a point on the road trip. Neither does Seth Jarvis, Jesperi Kotkaniemi nor Teuvo Teravainen, who has a team-leading 11 goals this season..
Forward Andrei Svechnikov missed his second straight game with an upper-body injury. Svechnikov was on a four-game point streak and had scored his first goal of the season before an illness kept him out of the game at Philadelphia on Nov. 28. Now, the injury and more uncertainty.
The Canes have failed to score a power-play goal in six of the last eight games and are 1-for-11 on the road trip after a 1-5 showing against Vancouver that included one 5-on-3 advantage.
The Canes’ power-play goal Saturday came with defensemen Dmitry Orlov and Brady Skjei on the ice in the final seconds of a second-period power play. Skjei scored off an Orlov pass with 56 seconds left in the period.
“Our power play was not good at all,” Brind’Amour said. “Their penalty kill was good and we had a couple of little chances but it wasn’t very good.”
One positive: The Canes did not allow a shorthanded goal, which has been another issue.
While the Canes sputter offensively, defensive lapses continue. The Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev beat Martin Necas to the front of the crease to score one goal, and J.T. Miller had an open shot after skating in between Necas and Michael Bunting.
Necas was seen muttering to himself as he skated to the bench after the Mikheyev goal, his frustration evident.
“We gave ‘em two goals,” Brind’Amour said. “Just lack of coverage. Standing there, watching the guy tap it in. That can’t happen against any team, much less a good team.”
After the Miller goal, which put the Canucks ahead 3-1, Canes goalie Antti Raanta angrily swatted away the puck. It was hard to say if he was mad at himself or frustrated by another breakdown in D-coverage, or both.
The Canes will continue with Raanta and Pyotr Kochetkov in net with Frederik Andersen out indefinitely with a blood-clotting issue. Their numbers have not been good this season — Raanta with a 3.40 goals-against average and .860 save percentage, Kochetkov a 3.12 GAA and .873 save percentage.
If recent history can offer any solace, the Hurricanes lost five straight games in November of last season, four in overtime, then went on a 15-0-1 tear. A season can pivot quickly — in either direction.
But the Canes’ mindset and play on the ice must quickly change, Aho said.
“We’re not happy about the game right now,” Aho said. “We’ve just got to be better overall. There are so many details of the game we just have to do better.”