You could see a game like this coming from a Carolina country mile.
After finding ways to overcome stretches of sluggish play to win games throughout the month of February, finishing with a 10-1-2 record, the Flyers (34-20-10) turned in a lackluster performance Thursday in a 4-1 loss to the Hurricanes at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations).
“Obviously that is not what you want to do especially this time of year,” Jakub Voracek said. “No loss is a good loss. It’s hard to say if you feel it coming. You feel winning, you don’t think about losing the game.”
“We didn’t have a lot of energy tonight, but there’s no excuse for that. That’s a fact,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “I’ve said before, after some of the games that we’ve won, you have to take it for what it is.”
The opening five minutes of the first and second periods set the tone as Carolina played suffocating defense on the Flyers, who struggled to transition the puck out of their end and were responsible for bad turnovers. Brandon Manning and Andrew MacDonald combined for five of the team’s 10 giveaways.
“They sat on top of us pretty well. They didn’t give us a lot of time and space,” Hakstol said. “When you’re not doing things at full speed and real crisp and real sharp, it’s hard to make things happen and that was the case tonight.”
After bailing out the Flyers Monday in Montreal, Petr Mrazek didn’t have his best start, either. Carolina opened the scoring just as its power play expired. Former Flyer Justin Williams worked behind Manning and tapped in a rebound that Mrazek couldn’t control (see highlights).
“At the beginning of the game, I felt pretty good,” Mrazek said. “I made a couple of mistakes, a couple of rebounds that I should have had. I didn’t like the first goal, too. The puck got on the edge a little bit. It went to me and it gave them the momentum to be up 1-0 in our building.”
The Hurricanes were motivated by the return of their top center Jordan Staal. He and his wife Heather are recovering from the loss of their stillborn daughter. Staal's presence gave the entire Carolina team that emotional boost.
“That’s what you need,” head coach Bill Peters said. “You need your best players to be your best players and you miss them when he’s not here. I think it’s good for both us and him.”
For the Flyers, it’s one loss that could be nothing more than running over a pothole on I-95, now with their eyes squarely focused on a two-game weekend road trip to Florida to face the Lightning and Panthers this weekend.
“We've got to make sure we give ourselves a boost out of this,” Hakstol said. "It’s a quick turnaround time. We have a short workday [Friday]. We get on the plane and head south. This team has handled reality very well, and that is what we will do again in this case.”