RALEIGH — The Carolina Hurricanes may have a Christmas that's more miserable than restful.
After a 5-1 beating Wednesday by the Montreal Canadiens, the Hurricanes will go into a two-day Christmas break off two straight losses. Both were at the RBC Center, and both were hard to digest, even for a team that's last in the league
"It's going to be tough," center Eric Staal said. "Because of everything that's going on this year, it's tough to leave the rink and not be thinking about our situation. That's the truth.
"It's not like we're not caring. We want to win. We're trying to win games, we're trying to get better. But it's not happening."
Not at 9-22-6. No, it is not happening for the Hurricanes.
"I know it's not easy to watch," Staal said. "It's not easy to be out there. ... It's frustrating is all it is, really.
"We're trying to do better in all areas, but to a man each of us aren't getting it done. It's no fun where we are right now."
The Hurricanes were looking to rebound from a hard-fought 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Monday. But the Canadiens, winning their third straight on the road, outskated and out-executed Carolina, scoring two power-play goals in grabbing a 4-1 lead in the first period.
Canes goaltender Cam Ward, roughed up for three goals on the first seven shots, headed to the bench 9:32 into the game. In came Manny Legace, who gave up the Canadiens' second power-play score and then another late in the second period, both by Glen Metropolit.
"We were just awful soft, and they were real fast," Canes coach Paul Maurice said of the first period. "When you play a team that's skating like that, you have to be as physical as you can to slow them down, and we had a hard time getting any checks."
Brandon Sutter did manage to score a power-play goal for the Canes in the first, banging a rebound past goaltender Jaroslav Halak. But that was all that got past Halak, who followed a 47-save victory over the Atlanta Thrashers by making 46 stops against the Canes, who had a season-high 47 shots.
By all accounts, there were loud words spoken during the first intermission in the Canes' locker room.
"Everyone was pretty angry," Staal said.
"I just figured we needed to fight a little bit harder than that," Maurice said. "It's one thing to get beat, but you can't get beat at home like that and embarrassed in the first period and not come out with some better fight."
Andrei Markov opened the scoring with a power-play goal for the Canadiens (18-18-3) just 1:29 into the game, and Andrei Kostitsyn made it 2-0 at 3:42. Sutter scored, but Sergei Kostitsyn's goal at the end of an odd-man rush ended the night for Ward.
In the second period, the Canes couldn't convert on a 5-on-3 and gave up a man advantage with a penalty for too many players on the ice. Then Metropolit scored. So it went for Carolina.
Maurice made changes, did some line-juggling. Staal opened as the top-line center, dropped down a line and was playing winger by the third period. Nothing worked.
What now for the Canes? Who can really say.
"We're in a huge hole," Legace said. "The only way to get out of it is to put each other on each other's shoulders and climb our way out of it."
The Hurricanes' next game, Saturday at the RBC Center, should be intriguing. They'll be facing the Philadelphia Flyers and new coach Peter Laviolette.
Laviolette, who guided Carolina to the 2006 Stanley Cup, was fired by the Hurricanes early last December after a 12-11-2 start.
"We'll try to refresh and regroup as best we can in the two days," Staal said. "But this whole situation will probably be in our minds."
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