Former Carolina Hurricanes coach Bill Peters once said losing is contagious, and it seems that way now under first-year coach Rod Brind’Amour.
The Canes took a four-game losing streak into St. Louis on Tuesday and it became five after the Blues took a 4-1 victory at the Enterprise Center. Ryan O’Reilly had his first career NHL hat trick and goalie Chad Johnson finished with 38 saves for the Blues, who led 3-1 after the first period.
The Canes (6-7-2) have established a trend in the 0-4-1 slide that’s much the same as it was the past few years under Peters:
-- Finish with a lot of shots and enough scoring chances to win.
-- Hit posts, miss the net, have shots blocked and fail to finish.
-- Lose the goaltending battle.
“We should be frustrated,” Brind’Amour said. “I would hope so. But we have to park it and then come back and show them all the stuff they’ve done well and the stuff they need to clean up.
“It’s a test for these guys and obviously ourselves to stick with what we’re doing and try to find a way to manufacture offense. Scoring goals is not easy. You’ve got to get dirty.”
The Canes have had more than 30 shots in each of their 15 games. They were averaging 41.8 a game before Tuesday, setting an NHL record for most shots on goal in the first 14 games of a season (585).
But only defenseman Jaccob Slavin was able to score and his first goal of the season, on a power play, was quickly negated by bad penalty and a sudden Blues strike.
Two sequences in the first period were telling. The first came after O’Reilly had given the Blues a 1-0 lead as Canes rookie Andrei Svechnikov, with a good chance off the rush, hit the post, then had Johnson get a glove on the puck as Svechnikov tried to knock in the rebound.
The Blues quickly were in transition, Robby Fabbri finishing off a rush for a 2-0 lead with his first goal since December 2016.
Slavin’s score, on a shot through traffic from the point, made it a one-goal game with 26 seconds left in the first period. But Canes rookie center Nicolas Roy lost a faceoff to O’Reilly, then slashed him moments later, and O’Reilly’s power-play score with five seconds left in the period made it 3-1.
“The guys know they can’t keep giving teams goals early and get behind,” Brind’Amour said.
The Blues locked it down from there with some good work in the neutral zone and defensive zone. O’Reilly’s third goal was an empty netter.
Since the 4-0-1 start that had everyone excited, the Canes have gone 2-7-1 and scored two or fewer goals seven times.
Brind’Amour gave goalie Curtis McElhinney the start Tuesday as Petr Mrazek continues to recover from a lower-body injury.
The Canes will finish the four-game road trip in Chicago on Thursday after what will have been an unsettling few days for the Blackhawks, who fired coach Joel Quenneville on Tuesday. The Blackhawks, who have lost five straight, named Jeremy Colliton head coach.
The Canes will have all that working against them as they look to end their slide before a six-game homestand that begins Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings.
“Our game is pretty solid,” Brind’Amour said. “We’re playing pretty well overall. We’re creating more than enough chances to win the hockey game. The fact they’re not going in right now is the frustrating part.
“The guys are giving us, the Hurricanes, everything they can. And that’s all we can ask.”