The Carolina Hurricanes were beaten 3-1 Thursday by the Winnipeg Jets, and it was easy to identify the how and the why.
The Jets got two goals from power forward Blake Wheeler, both on tips, and backup goalie Michael Hutchinson took care of the job in net. But the Jets also were the quicker, more energetic and efficient team this night at PNC Arena.
The Canes (5-7-3), in taking their first regulation loss in November, lost races to pucks. They were beaten on faceoffs. They struggled to get shots on goal.
"Usually we have more energy than we had tonight," Canes coach Bill Peters said. "For whatever reason we didn't have a lot of energy and never really got going. We didn't have any pace to our game and had a hard time executing."
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Cam Ward was the Canes' best player and was ready. The goaltender, who had won five straight starts, made a handful of sparkling saves during the game, giving Carolina a chance until the final minutes, when an empty-net goal by the Jets' Michael Frolik clinched it.
Ward stopped 34 of 36 shots while Hutchinson had an easier night. Elias Lindholm scored a second-period power-play goal for the Canes but that was all Hutchinson allowed in following up a shutout of the Chicago Blackhawks on Nov. 2 with another strong outing for the Jets (9-6-2).
Lindholm scored his sixth of the season, beating Hutchinson on a shot from the side of the net that glanced off Stuart. Lindholm then had a chance to tie the score with 3:37 left in regulation.
Hutchinson was out of position but Lindholm could not get his stick on the puck with defenseman Zach Bogosian closing in.
"I had to lean back a little bit -- I was too far ahead," Lindholm said. "It would have been nice if that had gone in."
But it was that kind of night for the Canes. Too many passes were off the mark or went into players' skates, too many possessions ended with turnovers. The focus, the concentration, were missing while the Jets played assertively in boosting their road record to 6-3-1.
"We were on our heels pretty much the whole game," Lindholm said.
Wheeler, a big man at 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds with an active stick, twice tipped shots past Ward. He redirected Mark Stuart's point shot in the first period, then a Bogosian shot for the game-winner at 13 minutes, seven seconds of the second period.
"He's a big-body guy and obviously has some good hand/eye coordination," Ward said. "He planted himself in front of me and not only was it difficult to see the shot from the point, but I believe both were going well wide and he redirected it."
Canes captain Eric Staal, playing the wing for the first time this season, did not have a shot on goal. Staal was on a line centered by rookie Victor Rask but was put back in the middle during the game with Rask having his problems.
The slow starts by the Canes has everyone baffled. Ward said the Canes had discussed shots for and against in recent first periods, discussed how to remedy it.
"For some reason we haven't been able to get the puck to the net," Ward said. "We've gotten better as the game went along, but to be successful in this league you've got to play the whole 60 minutes."
Defenseman Tim Gleason was more blunt, saying, "I think we just weren't ready to play."