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About last night: Special teams, defensive lapses sink Canes

The Hurricanes were again below their usual standard Thursday night, and this time it cost them in the form of a loss.

Carolina Hurricanes v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

For the third straight game, the Hurricanes played below their usual standard. This time, however, they did not get away with the desired result, falling 6-4 to the Blackhawks in Chicago to snap their winning streak at five games Tuesday night.

The Hurricanes lost the back-and-forth game largely as a result of an abysmal night on special teams and too many defensive lapses.

Let’s take a look at some key takeaways from the loss:

A scary moment

Thursday night may have been more costly than simply a game in the loss column. There was a scary moment with under a minute to play when Martin Necas took a (perfectly clean, legal) hit from former Hurricanes Calvin de Haan and fell awkwardly, with his head bouncing off the ice.

Necas laid on the ice for a couple minutes and had to be helped off.

Rod Brind’Amour said after the game that Necas would be reevaluated and he didn’t have an update. If Necas, who is off to a great start to the season, is forced to miss time, it would obviously be a big blow to the Hurricanes.

Special teams disaster

Over three shorthanded wins against Tampa Bay and Dallas, the Canes’ special teams were superb. In this two game-stretch against Dallas, they were anything but, including a horrific night on Thursday, with Carolina going 2 for 5 on the kill and 0 for 4 on its own power play.

We’ll start with a penalty kill that Rod Brind’Amour said lost the game for the Hurricanes in the first period, and he’s not wrong.

Despite an early goal from Sebastian Aho, the Canes quickly found themselves behind in the first, largely due to a parade to the penalty box against the Blackhawks’ lethal power play.

The first came barely two minutes after Aho’s tally, as, with Haydn Fleury in the box for hooking, Matias Janmark took a pass across from Dominik Kubalik and beat James Reimer on the backhand to tie the game.

After Kubalik gave Chicago its first lead, Andrew Shaw chipped one in with about six seconds left in the period at the tail end of a 5-on-3 to give the Hawks a two-goal lead.

“It was a little bit of everything,” Brind’Amour said. “We did have a 5-on-3 and we were doing a good job, and we had it on our stick and didn’t get it out. There you go, then it’s in your net. And they’ve got obviously a world-class player out there that really controls the power play. You can’t give them second chances. It was a bunch of things. We weren’t aggressive enough, in my opinion. We just gave them too much time, and that’s death in this league.”

The Canes also could not get anything going with their own power play, not lighting the lamp in four tries and mustering just four shots on goal while up a man. A late third-period power play following Chicago’s game winner could have given the team a chance to earn a point, but the Canes couldn’t capitalize.

The team will need to get its special teams back on track to have success going forward.

Too many defensive lapses

While special teams were the main culprit in the loss, the Hurricanes certainly weren’t spotless at five on five either.

The team did come out with a good response to start the second, tying the game with two goals in less than a minute from Nino Niederreiter and Andrei Svechnikov.

After that, however, the ice tilted back in Chicago’s favor, and that was the issue. The good moments were too few and far between, as the Canes simply didn’t get to their game often enough in this one.

Throughout the night, the team was prone to defensive miscues, routinely hanging James Reimer out to dry, especially on Chicago’s fourth and fifth goals in the third period that ultimately won the Blackhawks the game.

“We were definitely sloppy,” said Dougie Hamilton. “We gave up a lot of breakaways. Our power play was very bad. Our PK was very bad. It’s hard to win when you have those things. I mean, we played them two days ago. We should know what to expect from them, and we should be able to know how to play against them. We didn’t adjust to their game, and we didn’t get to our game. We’ve definitely got to figure it out in the next couple days.”

Returners still looking sluggish

The Canes welcomed four players: Teuvo Teravainen, Jordan Martinook, Warren Foegele and Jaccob Slavin, back for the first time since Jan. 18 in Tuesday’s game after a stint on the NHL’s COVID protocol list.

The quartet has understandably looked a bit sluggish in its return, with Teravainen and Slavin, both of whom the team relies on for big minutes, in particular not looking like themselves. That wasn’t the only culprit in the loss, however.

“Yeah, because there’s such a high level that we expect out of them,” Brind’Amour said. “When you sit around for 10 days and then try to jump into an NHL game, it’s going to be hard. It’ll take them a little while to get up to speed, for sure. Having said that, our mental approach wasn’t right tonight. That wasn’t the way we’ve got to play. You saw it in spurts, but it’s got to be consistent to win in the NHL. It wasn’t there tonight.”

While this lull is nothing to be overly concerned about given everything the team has been through in the past couple weeks, not to mention its overall record, the Canes will need to get back to the way they want to play and get everyone in sync sooner than later with a busy schedule coming up, starting with Sunday and Monday’s back-to-back in Columbus.