Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon was in the house again Sunday, taking his turn cranking up the hurricane warning siren before the game.
Dundon didn’t run out of steam, giving the siren a good, strong crank as the Canes were taking the ice.
Unfortunately for the Canes, that was one of the few highlights as the Vegas Golden Knights put in 60 minutes of work at PNC Arena and walked away with a 5-1 victory. Defenseman Colin Miller had a goal and two assists and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury 27 saves as the expansion Knights now have a league-leading 66 points in what has become a dream first season.
Defenseman Jaccob Slavin did score a power-play goal in the first period for the Canes and Elias Lindholm pumped up the crowd with a couple of big hits before Slavin’s goal. But that was it for the home team as starting goaltender Scott Darling lasted 13 minutes in net and the Canes (21-18-8) dropped their fourth straight game on home ice.
Dundon’s first home game as the majority owner didn’t go well — a 4-3 loss to the Washington Capitals on Jan. 12, just hours after Dundon was formally introduced at a press conference at PNC Arena. That one, especially after a late-game collapse by the Canes, didn’t set well with the new boss.
The Canes, after taking their five-day bye week, returned Saturday for a 3-1 road win against the Detroit Red Wings. Cam Ward was the winning goalie and expected to have a good seat Sunday as Darling got the start.
But that was before the Golden Knights (31-11-4), unexpectedly the league’s best story of the season, scored three times on their first eight shots.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare scored off the rush, Miller rifled a shot from the point on a power play and Jonathan Marchessault quickly followed by scoring from the right circle for a 3-0 lead. That was it for Darling, whose record dropped to 9-13-6.
The Canes topped the Golden Knights 3-2 in a shootout on Dec. 12 in Las Vegas, where the Knights have lost just four of 22 games this season. Ward earned his 300th career win that night, but the Golden Knights have continued to win and impress.
Late in the first, Lindholm gave the Knights a jolt and pumped some energy into his team. The forward, who scored twice in the win over the Red Wings, first crunched Vegas defenseman Nate Schmidt into the boards. When Marchessault skated up to retaliate by hitting Lindholm, he went stumbling away as Lindholm turned and landed the harder blow.
Marchessault went after Lindholm again as both players dropped the gloves. Marchessault was give four minutes of penalty time for roughing, and Slavin scored off a nice Jeff Skinner pass for the power-play goal 14 seconds later.
The Hurricanes made a push in the second period, only to have a Victor Rask slashing penalty result in a second Vegas power-play goal. James Neal scored his 21st of the season, poking a rebound through Ward’s pads for the fast, aggressive Golden Knights, who were averaging 3.3 goals a game.
Brendan Leipsic scored in the third for Vegas.
Before the game, Canes coach Bill Peters did have one bit of encouraging news: Sebastian Aho’s lower-body injury may not be serious, even though the Finnish forward will be sidelined indefinitely while in the concussion protocol.
Aho was hit in the head and took a knee-to-knee hit in a collision with Mark Giordano of the Calgary Flames a week ago in the Canes’ 4-1 loss at PNC Arena. Peters said Sunday that Aho’s lower-body injury did not appear to be “significant.”
The Canes again played without defenseman Brett Pesce, who missed his fifth game with an upper-body injury. Defenseman Roland McKeown, recalled from the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL, played his third game of the season for the Canes as Haydn Fleury was a healthy scratch Sunday.