The Carolina Hurricanes, coaches and players, viewed a five-game homestand after their NHL bye week as chance to make a move.
Win games, climb up in the Eastern Conference standings, put together a late-season surge, get into playoff contention.
Instead, the Canes ended it with a thud, with a 3-1 loss Sunday to the Calgary Flames that finished off a disappointing 1-3-1 stretch at PNC Arena.
General manager Ron Francis traded veteran defenseman Ron Hainsey on Thursday. Other changes could be made before the NHL trade deadline on Wednesday.
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“We made it easy for management, for sure,” Canes coach Bill Peters said Sunday.
Asked if he anticipated more changes, Peters said, “I’m not sure but I don’t have much of a leg to stand on, to argue. They’ll be making decisions, and I’m sure they’re busy as we speak.”
Johnny Gaudreau, who can be dynamic, was on Sunday, scoring twice and adding an assist for the Flames (33-26-4), who have moved into playoff position in the Western Conference with a 9-2-1 run. Goalie Brian Elliott was stout enough in net, allowing a power-play goal to Victor Rask in the first period but nothing else in finishing with 34 saves.
“Our effort was lacking throughout,” Peters said. “Usually we start well. I didn’t think we did. We had two power plays early in the game, scored on one of them, didn’t generate much five-on-five. I don’t think we got going at any point in the game.”
Peters did some line juggling during the game, moving Teuvo Teravainen to center with Jeff Skinner and Lee Stempniak, and Jordan Staal to center with Sebastian Aho and Elias Lindholm. Nothing worked as the Canes had too many careless passes, many in the neutral zone, and the Flames had 24 takeaways.
“We didn’t compete hard enough to get in their end and hold on to pucks and create plays,” Staal said.
Peters said the Canes missed forward Brock McGinn, who plays with some thump but sat out the game with an injury.
“We missed his energy, missed his competitiveness,” Peters said. “We could have used a little bit more of both.”
After Rask scored his first goal in 16 games, the Canes (25-25-8) had a chance to take a 2-0 lead when defenseman Ryan Murphy had an open shot from the slot. But Canes forward Phil Di Giuseppe knocked the Flames’ Matt Stajan down in the crease, and Murphy’s shot – which had beaten Elliott – hit Stajan in the helmet and shoulder as Stajan was getting up and stayed out of the net.
Peters shrugged off that near-miss, saying, “Would we have started to play properly if we got up two?”
Gaudreau made a nifty stretch pass to Micheal Ferland for a breakaway in the second period, Ferland beating goalie Eddie Lack, then scored on a shot from the slot. His backhander hit the skate of Canes defenseman Brett Pesce, who then tried to get his stick on the puck only to knock it to Gaudreau.
Gaudreau made a quick move to the middle in the third to score his second of the game as the defensive pairing of Pesce and Noah Hanifin struggled. Both had minus-3 games.
So much for the big homestand. The Canes next play road games against Florida and Tampa Bay.
“For how consistent we’ve been at home it’s been frustrating,” Staal said. “They were big games, and we dropped the ball on a few.”