The Carolina Hurricanes better hope that whatever happens in Dallas stays in Dallas...
In game four of their four-game Western Conference road trip, the Canes came out flat, stayed flat, finished flat, and wasted a great start from Petr Mrazek en route to a 4-1 loss to Jamie Benn and the Dallas Stars.
After dominating the first seven minutes of the game, the Stars broke through for the game’s first goal at the 7:54 mark.
Several Hurricanes forwards collided at the top of the Dallas zone, and it certainly looked like Martin Necas was interfered with. That miscue led to a 4-on-2 rush the other way, and Stephen Johns delivered an excellent pass to Benn as he broke to the backdoor. Benn beat Mrazek, who had no chance on keeping the puck out of the net. Carolina failed to score first for the sixth-straight game.
The Stars continued to pummel the Hurricanes as the middle stages of the first period came and went, but Mrazek put together an admirable battle in net and kept Dallas off the board.
A pretty egregious boarding from Radek Faksa on Justin Williams in the Stars’ zone gave the Hurricanes a big power play opportunity.
Radek Faksa's boarding penalty on Justin Williams. pic.twitter.com/0WaTgKfZx6— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) February 12, 2020
The Hurricanes took advantage of Faksa’s violent mistake and tied the game before the first intermission.
Just seconds after the power play expired, Andrei Svechnikov got the puck on the right wing and tried to thread the needle through traffic in front and find Justin Williams at the backdoor. Instead, the puck bounced off Sebastian Aho’s skate and Aho quickly rifled a shot along the ice, off the right post, and by Anton Khudobin.
The goal marked a career-high 31 for Aho, and he did it in game 56 of the season. He extended his goal-scoring streak to six games and his point streak to seven games. Svechnikov’s primary assist extended his point streak to five games.
The Hurricanes mounted a good push late in the period after Faksa’s boarding penalty, but the Stars dominated a vast majority of the opening frame.
The second period then flipped on its head for the Canes in relatively short order.
An early penalty on Necas gave the Stars a power play, but Mrazek was on top of every puck he saw and kept them off the board. Just over half way through the period, though, Jordan Staal got whistled for hooking and Dallas got another chance - and they didn’t squander it.
Dallas moved the puck around the outside and ultimately got it Denis Gurianov on his off-side. Gurianov absolutely blasted a one-timer up and over the shoulder of Mrazek into what was a very limited amount of open space. It was a pure snipe that sent the cap to Mrazek’s water bottle flying and gave the Stars a 2-1 lead.
90 seconds later, the Hurricanes took another penalty. Brock McGinn lost sight of the puck at his own blue line and ended up hooking Roope Hintz.
The Canes proceeded to Benn-d and break.
After the penalty kill, as a whole, got lost in coverage, the puck rotated out to an open Jamie Benn, who sent a dart by Mrazek from the top of the left circle. Benn’s second goal of the night doubled the Dallas lead and made it 3-1.
The final minutes played out with the Stars very nearly finding the back of the net several times, but a combination of Mrazek magic and luck kept the puck out of the net ahead of the horn.
Through 40 minutes, the Canes trailed 29-18 on the shot clock and 3-1 where it mattered. Mrazek was the lone reason why it was just a two-goal deficit for his team up to that point.
The third period slowed down dramatically, which was exactly what the Stars wanted. The Hurricanes couldn’t get anywhere between the dots of the offensive zone, being locked down at the offensive blue line with relative ease and being kept to the outside of the offensive zone when the Canes did manage to get the puck over the blue line.
Unfortunately for the guys in white, they weren’t able to do what they did in Arizona and Las Vegas - come back from a poor start where they trailed by multiple goals.
The game ended with a score of 4-1 in favor of the Stars after Benn topped off his hat trick with what will go down as an empty net goal (he was upended by Svechnikov as he roared in on the vacated Carolina net with less than a minute left in the game).
Oh, and it was hat giveaway night at American Airlines Arena. Sounds reminiscent of something that happened with another captain on April 8, 2010 inside the walls of the RBC Center.
With the loss, Carolina fell to 32-21-3 on the season. Dallas improved to 32-19-5 on the back of their captain’s trifecta and a strong game from the former Hurricane in net.
It was an excellent night for Mrazek, who stopped 33 shots and gave his team every opportunity to win the game. The sum of the other 18 parts was just nowhere close to being enough, though. It was a disappointing showing.
The four-game trip through the Western Conference rendered an even 2-2-0 split for the Hurricanes. They will return to Raleigh and, ideally, reap the benefits of two non-game-days before hosting the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.