RALEIGH — Rod Brind'Amour doesn't have the answer.
Ray Whitney doesn't have it. Neither does any other Carolina Hurricanes player.
Paul Maurice wishes he had one, but the coach seems just as baffled as everyone else, almost to the point of being flabbergasted.
The Hurricanes have lost nine straight games after being blasted 5-1 on Sunday by the San Jose Sharks. And by game's end, with many of the few fans left in the RBC Center booing, it was easy to forget the Canes had led 1-0 early in the second period on Brandon Sutter's goal.
That would be 20-year-old Sutter, the youngest player on the team. The Canes, who aren't lacking for veterans, have one goal in each of the last two games - losing 6-1 at Philadelphia on Saturday - and Sutter has both.
So what, in the name of Peter Karmanos Jr. is going on here? Wasn't this a team touted in preseason as deep and talented enough to make a Stanley Cup run? Carolina (2-8-3) stands 14th in the NHL's Eastern Conference and has the fewest points (seven) after 13 games of any team in the franchise's NHL history.
"It's not any one consistent thing through the bunch of games," Maurice said. "It's a different fire each day."
In the nine-game losing streak, the Canes have lost in a shootout and in overtime. They have been outscored 38-17, with the disturbing tendency to allow one goal, then quickly give up another.
"Sometimes, it would be easy if you could say it's just this thing or that thing, and then fix it," Brind'Amour, the team captain, said. "The frustrating thing about the streak is we've had games where we've outplayed the opponent and played well.
"But we need to find a way to win. We've done all the talking and said all the things. It's now a matter of each guy is going to have to figure a way to do something a little different to get it done."
The Canes were hoping the return of Erik Cole from a leg injury and Tuomo Ruutu after a three-game suspension would provide one of the answers. Cole had been out the previous 10 games and was back on the top line with Eric Staal and Whitney, who was honored before the game for playing more than 1,000 NHL games.
Maurice also shuffled other lines, putting Chad LaRose on the fourth line with Sutter and Tom Kostopoulos. LaRose assisted on Sutter's goal at 2:48 of the second.
Staal left the game after the second period with what was called an upper-body injury. It doesn't appear to be serious.
For the Canes, the losing script remained the same.
After Sutter's goal, the Sharks countered with a goal from Kent Huskins at 4:05, then another from Brad Staubitz just 1:22 later.
Douglas Murray added a third goal late in the second for a 3-1 lead.
Huskins, Staubitz and Murray. That's not like being scored on by, say, the Sharks' Dany Heatley or Joe Thornton.
"It was a big goal, a beautiful goal," Whitney said of Sutter's hard wrister off the rush. "It got our crowd into it and got us going.
"Then a couple of minutes later it's tied 1-1, and that takes a little bit of that momentum we had.
"How we react after goals against is becoming a problem. ... We get a goal scored against us and the heads drop."
Early in the third, LaRose had a shot hit the post.
Whitney couldn't convert a two-on-one with Cole, only to have Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic score seven seconds later on a rush the other way.
Patrick Marleau, who assisted on Vlasic's goal, added a power-play goal for the Sharks (10-4-1), who have won their past five.
"Mentally, we have to be tougher, professionally, than we are right now," Whitney said. "How you do that, how you teach that, I don't know.
"We can't afford to be running around too much longer the way the standings are going."
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