In a season that has had a lot of smiles and success, it has been a rough patch of days for the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Canes were on the road Tuesday, losing to the Dallas Stars 4-1 in a game in which they played hard and well at times but couldn’t find a way to score on an old rival, goalie Braden Holtby.
While Holtby had 39 saves, Roope Hintz had his first career hat trick for the Stars, scoring in each period. His third goal, an empty netter, came soon after Jesperi Kotkaniemi had scored for the Canes and after goalie Frederik Andersen was pulled for a sixth atttacker.
For the Canes, the loss came after a tough 4-2 home-ice defeat Sunday to the Washington Capitals, having defensemen Brett Pesce and Tony DeAngelo placed in COVID-19 protocol on Monday and then Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour being fined $25,000 by the NHL a few hours before game time Tuesday.
It has been that kind of stretch for Carolina -- futile and frustrating. It didn’t help that the NHL scheduled the Canes for a six-game road trip, one home game, a game in Dallas and then two home games. But NHL scheduling often is puzzling,
Nor did it help the Canes catching the Stars on an uptick. Dallas has won five in a row and six straight games at home, and played with that kind of confidence Tuesday against a team that brought a 9-2-1 road record into the game.
Holtby did. The Stars goalie, playing his 500th career game, bested Andersen in the duel of the veterans. Holtby and the Canes tangled often when Holtby was with the Caps, most memorably in the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Hintz and forward Joe Pavelski did the damage offensively for the Stars (11-7-2), Hintz scoring early in the game and again in the second period for a 2-0 lead as Pavelski earned assists on both goals. Pavelski then scored midway through the third for a 3-0 lead before Kotkaniemi’s goal with 3:33 left in regulation ended Holtby’s shutout bid.
The Canes (15-5-1), who outshot the Stars 40-17, couldn’t blame the loss Tuesday on replacing Pesce and DeAngelo with defensemen Max Lajoie and Jalen Chatfield, recalled Monday from the Chicago Wolves of the AHL. Both had solid games, given the situation.
The Canes power play was affected -- to a degree -- by the loss of DeAngelo and Pesce, who each quarterback power-play units. Brind’Amour tried five forwards on one unit, only to give up two shorthanded chances to the Stars on the Canes’ first power play.
The Canes’ power play was struggling before COVID-19 struck and was 0-3 Tuesday. Carolina now has gone seven games without a power-play score and not generating that many good scoring chances as the Canes’ five-on-five play has been more dangerous and efficient much of the season.
Hintz scored his first at 1:13 of the first period. Getting off a shot from the left circle, Hintz worked his way around defenseman Jaccob Slavin and through some traffic in the slot to grab the puck and elevate it past Andersen.
The second Hintz goal came after the Stars won a battle for the puck at the Canes blue line. That set up a two-on-one that had Pavelski set up Hintz , who now has 10 goals for the season.
Brind’Amour was fined for what the NHL called inappropriate conduct during Sunday’s game at PNC Arena.