RALEIGH — Carolina Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller was mad when it was over.
Hurricanes captain Eric Staal was mad.
So it went as Carolina faced off against the Winnipeg Jets in a critical Southeast Division game. Coming off a four-day break and after much talk of being refreshed and ready, the Hurricanes were force-fed a 4-1 loss by the Jets.
A lot can be made of Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec turning back 38 of 39 shots, or Evander Kane scoring a goal and adding three assists. The Jets (18-14-2), who lead the division, now have a six-point cushion on the Hurricanes (15-14-2) and clearly were the better team Tuesday.
The Canes frustration level may have been at its highest all season after this loss, which stretched Carolinas winless streak to six games and was its fourth consecutive loss at home.
How do the Canes pull out of the losing funk?
We have to do it collectively, Staal said. I mean, weve done enough talking. Weve done enough trying to figure it out.
It takes us doing it collectively, doing the right things, doing your job and doing it better. Its clearly not good enough.
Muller said he expected his players to come out with plenty of jump, energetic and ready to compete, desperate to win. Not many did, he said.
Quite honestly, Im very disappointed, Muller said. I thought the rest and couple days off (to) refocus and wed be ready to go.
Not to take anything from Winnipeg, but it wasnt our best game and wasnt our best performance by some individuals. Im very surprised.
Muller did not name names. Yes, defenseman Jamie McBain twice had Kane blow past him for Winnipeg goals the first on a Kane pass to Olli Jokinen off the rush to tie the score 1-1 in the first period after Jiri Tlusty had given the Canes a 1-0 lead. Kane was credited with the final goal when McBain swatted at the puck and knocked into the Canes net.
But this loss was more than one defenseman having a poor game.
Pavelec had a better game in net than Carolinas Justin Peters, who faced 35 shots. Jokinens goal probably was one Peters would like to have back and Nik Antropov scored the Jets third goal, in the second period, when the Jets crashed the net and the puck was knocked out of the air.
Defenseman Tobias Enstrom gave the Jets a 2-1 lead in the second with a power-play goal, ripping a shot from the left circle.
But again, the blame cant be placed on Peters. Muller wouldnt allow that.
Player to player, theyve just got to look in the mirror and go, What can I do better, what can I bring more? Muller said. This is the playoffs right now. This is where you have to bring your A game. Some guys did, but not enough.
Were not going to make one excuse. I dont care if we have our eighth goalie in depth in our organization playing or whatever young guys coming in. This is where your best players have to step up and take charge in this stretch. It all comes from one thing: work.
Jeff Skinner worked. The Canes winger had 10 shots and was active and aggressive. Tlusty scored his 14th goal of the season and closed with six shots.
But Winnipeg blocked 25 shots. The Jets won puck battles. They found ways to score and now are 10-6-2 on the road.
The Hurricanes, after stumbling at home, now face three road games in Canada. They start Thursday in Toronto, face the Jets again Saturday, then close with a game in Montreal.
There has to be a sense of urgency, Canes defenseman Jay Harrison said. I think we have to look within.
Weve had some success on the road. Thats something we can look to, focus on it and build on it. We have to grab anything we can right now and get this turned around as quick as possible.