DALLAS - In the fourth and final game of their weeklong road trip, the Carolina Hurricanes dropped a 4-1 decision to the Dallas Stars.
Sebastian Aho tallied the lone goal for the Canes, while Jamie Benn notched a hat trick for the Stars.
1. Not Good Enough to Win
Aside from the last segment of the first period, the Hurricanes didn't have much offensive push. They didn't defend well enough, and special teams stumbled.
That, in 25 perhaps too simple words, was essentially the game.
"Every player was to be ready mentally and physically," Aho said. "We have to figure it out as a team."
"We weren't very good in the first period. We got better at the end, but we didn't kill penalties [in the second]. That's the game, really," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "We weren't good enough to win. We had a few guys who didn't come to play tonight. That's a problem."
2. Another Deficit
For the sixth straight game, the Hurricanes surrendered the first goal, and the team is just 10-18-2 in that scenario. Contrast that with the 22-3-1 mark when scoring first, and it becomes evident how vitally important that first goal of the game can be.
Video: CAR Recap: Aho scores in 4-1 loss to Stars
"That's kind of been the story this whole trip: our starts," Jaccob Slavin said. "They just haven't been good."
Benn scored his first of a trio in the game to get the Stars on the board in the first, as Dallas took advantage of an odd-man rush that began 4-on-2 as the team entered the offensive zone.
"It's tough when you have to chase the game," Aho said. "We didn't make it easy on ourselves. We need to be better."
The Canes tied the game before the end of the period and seemed to be building a game, but that fell apart in the second period.
What didn't fall apart was the play of Petr Mrazek in net, who unfortunately took the loss in one of his better recent efforts. Was it not for Mrazek in the first period, the Canes could have easily been in a deeper hole. Mrazek finished the night with 33 saves.
"He played well and kept us in it early," Brind'Amour said.
3. Aho Nets No. 31
Alex Ovechkin. Auston Matthews. David Pastrnak. Leon Draisaitl. Nathan MacKinnon.
Those are the names of the five players who have more goals in the National Hockey League than Sebastian Aho.
Aho netted his career-best 31st goal of the season late in the first period, just after the conclusion of a Canes' power play, as he slipped a quick shot through Anton Khudobin.
Video: CAR@DAL: Aho beats Khudobin with quick shot
"I just tried to get a quick shot on the net," Aho said. "I was kind of surprised I got the puck, but it went in."
With the goal, Aho extended his point streak to seven games (7g, 4a) and his goal streak to six games. Of Aho's 31 goals, he's scored 18 on the road, which ranks second in the NHL only to Ovechkin.
4. Assessing the Road Trip
The Hurricanes head home having captured four of a possible eight points on this four-game road trip. Though the Canes negated two-goal deficits in winning efforts in their last two games, a third straight come-from-behind win was not in the cards.
"You look at most of the road trip, and we dug ourselves out of lots of holes. The road trip easily could have been 0-4. It's nice that we got two wins, but we've got to start playing a lot more desperate here," Slavin said. "It's tight. Every point counts. We have to make sure we're prepared and ready to go."
"We beat two good teams. That's good," Aho said. "But, we need wins and points. That's all that matters."
All four teams the Canes faced on this road trip are in playoff positioning in the Western Conference. If the Canes were in the West, they'd be in first place in the Pacific Division.
But they're not, and now they're on the outside looking in on the playoff picture in the cutthroat Eastern Conference.
"I liked that we came back, but I didn't like a lot of the road trip, to be honest with you," Brind'Amour said. "It's good teams you're playing, and they don't give you much. We certainly had to earn our wins, the ones we got. We didn't play well enough to win in the games we lost. Pretty simple."
Maybe what the Hurricanes need is a little home cooking.
Maybe they'll get sparked to a better start by the raucous home crowd.
"The crowd at PNC is awesome. They've been there all year supporting us," Slavin said. "It definitely helps, but it's still on us to come out and get on top of games."
"For sure we get energy from the home crowd, and I'm excited to go back," Aho said.
Time to head home. The Canes host the New Jersey Devils on Friday night and then the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday afternoon before hitting the road again with the moms at the start of the week.