A mere two periods into the season, the Carolina Hurricanes quickly reached a crossroads. They had a few early chances that went for naught. They took three penalties and the puck ended up in their net on all three.
So what do you say if you're Bill Peters in your first game behind the Hurricanes' bench, down three goals to the New York Islanders a mere 40 minutes into the season?
"You gotta keep playing," Peters said afterward. "You still have to do things right. You have to establish a foundation. You have to stay with it."
The Canes came out and delivered with a quick Nate Gerbe goal, a Justin Faulk deflection off Gerbe's skate. There was life, there was hope, there was finally a goal.
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Less than four minutes later, the Islanders scored again to make it 4-1. Then 5-1. So much for that.
"That was tough," Hurricanes captain Eric Staal said. "It felt like the momentum was really coming our way."
Chris Terry and Staal added goals late, but it only made the final score seem closer than it really ever was. The Islanders' power play essentially won the game for them -- with a five-on-three goal, a five-on-four goal and another scored seconds after a penalty expired -- before the Hurricanes were even on the board. The sense of existential despair after two periods was palpable.
Until Gerbe's goal, the biggest cheer was for Jordan Staal, limping out to the bench on crutches for pregame introductions. (Jeff Skinner was notably and worringly absent.) The Hurricanes' best defensive play involved Tim Gleason hustling back to stop the puck from going into his own, empty net on a delayed penalty.
Peters lost his Hurricanes coaching debut while Cam Ward, who started 0-2-3 at home last season, has now lost six straight PNC Arena openers -- not that he had a lot of help Friday.
There were definitely moments when it was apparent what Peters is trying to get the Hurricanes to do, and not just in the third period. There were too many more when it was clear the Hurricanes can't do it yet, whether they're not ready or they're not capable, especially in their own end.
Along with Anton Khudobin in net, expect Brett Bellemore and Ryan Murphy in Saturday's lineup in the second half of this home-and-home with the Islanders. It may take Peters a while to find the right mix on defense. This isn't it, not yet anyway.
"We've got to look at getting better back there," Peters said. "There's no practice. Possibly a pregame skate on the Island. But we've got some guys who can come in back there. 'Murph' would add something on the power play and help us move the puck five-on-five, and 'Belly' is hard to play against."
The parking lots were full of tailgaters beforehand, always a heartening sight, and an apparent 16,000 of an announced sellout crowd of 18,680 actually filled seats to watch the only game of the night in the NHL between the only two teams yet to begin their season.
Half the teams in the league had scouts in the press box. The hockey world was watching. It saw nothing to defy predictions for either team, that the Islanders were headed for the playoffs, that the Hurricanes were bound to struggle.
There's still time to refute those expectations, but the Hurricanes didn't Friday.
They have to establish a foundation. They have to stay with it.
That was Peters' message after two periods Friday. It won't change. There's still a lot of work to be done.