A day after a 5-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, Canes coach Kirk Muller had not changed his mind about how the game played out.
Initially, he said, some of the younger players may have been been star-gazing a bit on the ice against the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Nor were the Canes assertive enough early in their first road game of the season, falling behind 2-0.
"The first period it was like we had too much respect for them," Muller said after the game at Consol Energy Center. "We wanted to push but we didn't. In the second period we got back into it and I thought in the third period we were in good shape until that third goal."
That was the Pens' third goal, and the second by Jussi Jokinen. It gave Pittsburgh a 3-2 lead and the Pens went on from there as Tanner Glass scored and Jokinen completed a hat trick against his former team.
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After Jokinen made it 3-2, Muller said, "We kind of pressed after that. ... We weren't able to sustain stuff after that third goal."
After starting the season with two games at home, the Canes (1-1-1) were in the position where the other team had the last change. Pens coach Dan Bylsma was able to get the matchups he wanted for the most part, and Muller changed up his lines during the game.
Drayson Bowman was shifted to Eric Staal's line with Alex Semin. Jiri Tlusty was moved to a line with Radek Dvorak and Brett Sutter. Elias Lindholm was slotted on a line with Riley Nash and Jeff Skinner. Only Jordan Staal's line remained intact.
"A couple of guys were going and other guys weren't, so we thought we'd try something different and get a little momentum going somehow and juggle it a little bit," Muller said. "It worked in the second and third until that (Jokinen) goal."
Eric Staal scored his first of the season on a spectacular effort play in the second period to pull the Canes within 2-1. Knocked down between the circles by Pens defenseman Brooks Orpik, Staal reached out with his stick and got the blade on what he said was a pass by Justin Faulk, the tip getting past Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
"I just tried to go to the net hard and (Faulk) kind of made good eye contact to me and made a great pass to me," Staal said. "As I was going down I just wanted to get a stick on it. Luckily enough I did and it went right where it was supposed to go."
Nathan Gerbe tied the score 2-2 in the third, but the Pens surged from there.
The Canes flew into the Washington area on Wednesday morning and there was no practice. Muller said after the Pens game he was not sure if Cam Ward would start again Thursday against the Washington Capitals or if Anton Khudobin would get the call. There also could be some line changes.
Muller said the Pens game, and the way things unraveled for the Canes in the third, could be beneficial depending on what the players took away from it. Much like the overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings in the opener, it was another example of how much it takes to beat high-quality, highly skilled teams.
Jordan Staal mentioned that the Canes' power play "doesn't have that killer instinct yet." He noted that after the Canes had taken the momentum by tying the score 2-2, they allowed "little mistakes to turn into big goals for them."
"It's something we have to clean up in our game," he said. "We'll learn from this and keep moving forward."