Sixty-three games into the season, Bill Peters has seen enough from the Carolina Hurricanes.
After his team lost a 3-1 decision to the Minnesota Wild Friday night in front of a listless crowd of under 11,000 at PNC Arena, Peters lit into his team, accusing them of missing energy, jump, execution and any other adjective typically used to describe successful hockey teams.
Why the lethargy? "I'm not sure," the Canes coach said. "But we're going to have to get it figured out, because we aren't going to watch this 19 more times. I know that."
A slow start for both teams saw the Canes trying a few low-percentage shots on the red-hot Devan Dubnyk, who did what you would expect him to. After a too-many-men penalty halfway through the period, though, the Wild struck first through Charlie Coyle, who was unchecked in the near circle after Eric Staal and Brett Bellemore both lost track of him at the end of the penalty. A pass from Nino Niederreiter was perfectly placed and Coyle beat Anton Khudobin to put the Wild up 1-0 eleven minutes in.
Later, the Canes did get a few high quality chances in on Dubnyk, with both Staal brothers whiffing on good setups, but any momentum was quickly quashed when Eric Staal, not having one of his finer periods in recent memory, was whistled for boarding. The Canes came up big though, killing both penalties in the period to increase their league-leading penalty kill to 89%. The power plays did help the Wild lead on the shot counter, 8-5 through the first period, and they nearly took a two-goal lead with a minute left when Khudobin stoned Chris Stewart on a partial breakaway.
A mundane second period got blown wide open after the Canes received their first power play 6:31 in. All of a sudden, a switch flipped on the home bench and the Canes came out with their pants on fire, Skinner hitting the crossbar during the power play serving as the catalyst for the Canes' best hockey of the night.
"Off the power play, we had some good momentum for a bit," Skinner said. "We had a bunch of chances after that and just couldnt seem to find one."
It took a while for the Canes to earn their reward, but they eventually did tie the game at 15:18 courtesy of Riley Nash. The Wild got caught in their own zone when the puck snuck out and right onto Skinner's stick. Ryan Suter played the two-on-one almost perfectly, but Skinner threaded the needle with an even more perfect pass, and Nash finished for his first goal since January 10 to tie the game.
"It felt pretty good. It had been a long time," said Nash.
Alexander Semin, having one of his better games, had a great chance to put the Canes on top with a minute left, but the puck rolled on him as he tried to pull the trigger and the teams went to the locker room tied at 1 despite the Canes holding a 16-4 shot advantage in the second period.
The Wild's coup de grace came in a two-minute stretch in the third period. Four minutes in, Granlund received credit for banking a puck in off the defending Chris Terry who was trying to prevent Jason Pominville from getting to it at the far post at 4:22. Terry's skate deflected the puck past Khudobin and the own goal gave the Wild a lead they would not relinquish. 1:56 later, a miscommunication behind the Carolina net had Khudobin scrambling, and he kicked a rebound out to Zach Parise, whose team-high 26th goal of the season doubled Minnesota's lead.
Despite firing 38 shots on Dubnyk, the Canes were only able to dent him once, and Peters sent a message to his team by not pulling Khudobin for the extra attacker down two goals late in the game.
"[Khudobin] was just like the rest of us," said Peters. "He didn't look sharp at all. Didn't look like we wanted to put the work in to be successful."
In a lethargic week that saw the Canes fold meekly to two Central Division opponents, Peters said that something has changed about his squad. "We used to be this hard-working, honest group. We haven't been the last two times out."
With 19 games to go, he expects that to change immediately, beginning on Sunday against Edmonton.