Rod Brind’Amour’s first year as the Carolina Hurricanes head coach began with a fast, exciting start, with a 4-0-1 record after five games.
Everyone, it seemed, was touting the Canes’ youth and speed and energy and the way they were having so much fun. But the last seven games have shown evidence of the Canes’ past creeping into the present, and a 3-2 loss Tuesday to the Boston Bruins at PNC Arena added to that.
The Canes had some good moments -- Micheal Ferland and Dougie Hamilton scoring on power plays, and Sebastian Aho picking up another assist to set franchise records. Goalie Scott Darling, in his first start of the season, looked sharp at times in finishing with 28 saves.
But the Canes could not prevent their fifth loss -- all in regulation -- in the past seven games. Again, a mental error, a breakdown here and there, proved costly. Again, a backup goalie stymied and beat them, this time Jaroslav Halak.
Bruins forward Brad Marchand did what Marchand often does, tormenting the other team. He scored twice, the first on a power play in the final seconds of the second period and his second goal, the game-winner, on a third-period wraparound that Brind’Amour called a “world-class play.”
David Pastrnak also scored on the power play for the Bruins for his 11th goal of the season, getting a sharp-angle shot through Darling for a 1-1 tie. Add in 42 saves by Halak, 4-0-2 this season, and it was a pretty nice victory for the Bruins (7-3-2).
And another tough loss for the Canes, who Brind’Amour believes are better than the 6-5-1 record they put up in October.
Marchand’s first goal came the Canes made one error on a Bruins power play and then compounded it with another.
The Canes’ Warren Foegele made a good play on a penalty kill and carried the puck down ice, but Boston center Patrice Bergeron swiped it from the rookie forward and hit an unchecked Marchand at the Carolina blue line as the Canes tried to make a change.
“We made a bad decision and took a breath,” Brind’Amour said.
Marchand ripped a shot to Darling’s far side for a 2-2 tie and the Canes also were called for having too many men on the ice during the change.
“Give Bergeron a lot of credit,” Brind’Amour said. “He saved a goal and then zipped it up and they get a goal. We’ve got to learn you can’t take a breath on the ice. And that’s what happened and to me that’s what cost us the game.”
The Bruins didn’t score on a power play that stretched into the third but Marchand’s goal at 5:23 of period was the winner. After Bergeron knocked the puck away from Brett Pesce, Marchand pushed it up ice and raced past Justin Williams to score on the wraparound.
The Canes finished the game with 34 even-strength shots but couldn’t finish, again a problem that hindered them the past few seasons. They had 24 shots in all in the second period, the most in a period this season.
“We threw the kitchen sink at them,” Darling said.
But Halak denied Foegele on a second-period shorthanded breakaway and made other timely stops.
“We’re shooting a lot,” Hamilton said. “Maybe we have to make an extra pass or something to beat these goalies.”
Brind’Amour said Darling “held us in there” with some good saves of his own. After losing 25 pounds in the offseason, Darling returned for training camp slimmer and with a more confident demeanor, only to suffer a hamstring injury in the final preseason game.
“I felt good,” Darling said. “I’ve been skating for weeks and it’s not like I missed half the year or anything. In my career I’m used to now playing for weeks at a time, so it was all good.”
Aho had the primary assist on Ferland’s goal. The Finnish center has points in all 12 games, breaking Ron Francis franchise record set in October 1984, and he passed Eric Staal for the franchise record for assists in consecutive games.
Aho also tied an NHL record -- jointly held by Wayne Gretzky of Edmonton (1982-82) and Ken Linseman of Boston (1985-86) -- with at least one assist in each of the first 12 games of a season.
“We’ve got to stay positive,” Brind’Amour said. “I’m happy with our compete, happy with a lot of things. But at the end of the day we’re here to win hockey games and we’ve got to find a way to get over that hump.
“Even looking back in years past we sat back in that coaches’ office a lot and we’d be saying ‘How did we lose that game?’ That’s kind of what’s happening here lately, so we’ve got to nip that in the bud right now and just figure ways to win.”