The Carolina Hurricanes were unable to escape an early hole, falling 6-1 to the New York Rangers.
Sebastian Aho scored a power-play goal to extend his goal-scoring streak to five games, but the Hurricanes were unable to match the Rangers offensively.
Here are five takeaways from tonight's game.
There wasn't much to be thankful for in this one tonight, and it felt a little bit out of place considering the Hurricanes came into the game trending in the right direction at 5-1-1 in their last seven contests.
"I didn't see this coming, to be honest with you," head coach Bill Peters said. "For me, this was a little bit out of the blue."
The Hurricanes tonight didn't resemble the team we've seen of late.
"There wasn't much legs or effort or much of a whole lot. We got outworked and outplayed," Jordan Staal said. "They were quicker, tracking harder and executing the right plays. We weren't."
"We were slow. We were slow to pucks and slow defensively," Peters said. "We didn't close on anybody. When we did close, we weren't physical enough to put an end to the cycle or O-zone motion."
Clunkers like tonight are bound to happen at some point in an 82-game season. What's important is how the team bounces back from this effort come Friday against Toronto.
"It's a big game for us, a big rebound game that we need to be ready for," Staal said.
"You learn. You don't forget it. You don't forget that," Peters said. "I think there's a lot of disappointment and guys disappointed in various aspects of the game. We're going to have to bounce back, I know that much."
Video: Hear from Staal, Faulk, and Peters Postgame
The Hurricanes chased the game from essentially the drop of the puck. Chris Kreider was left wide open for a one-timer just 52 seconds into the game, and it became a two-goal hole when Mika Zibanejad flipped an innocent dump in from the neutral zone that eluded Scott Darling's glove hand.
"That's a tough one to give up, obviously. That's not how you envision the start. I thought our start was poor. We were 1-for-11 (on faceoffs) to start," Peters said. "That tells you quite a bit about the game."
The Canes had chances to get back into it, too. Aho scored a power-play goal to halve the Rangers' lead, and Henrik Lundqvist robbed Staal twice in the first 20 minutes alone. The Rangers restored their two-goal lead before the end of the first period, but the Hurricanes hung around and hung around and hung around - but they were unable to capitalize.
"That's never the way you want to start a game, but we gave ourselves an opportunity in the first and second to bounce back. We created chances. I think we had 16 or 17 shots in the first period. Lundqvist made some good saves. We thought we were in it. We had a lot of game left," Justin Faulk said. "We thought we could work our way back."
"We didn't jump on the momentum we created there for ourselves. We fell right back into the hole of the way we were playing. There were opportunities to get back in the game that we didn't take advantage of. Then we continued to make mistakes and let them take over," Staal said. "It wasn't good. We have to come back with a better effort next time."
The Canes remained in a 3-1 hole heading into the third period, and the Rangers scored on carry-over power play time just 20 seconds in to make it a 4-1 game. From there, things unraveled.
"That was the air out of the balloon for us," Peters said. "We didn't compete from that point on very hard."
And that was that.
"We're not going to win a whole bunch of games - if any - if we're not the hardest working team," Peters said. "That type of effort is not going to get us the result that we need or want."
A positive in a game in which there weren't many to be had: Aho remains hot. The Finnish forward extended his goal-scoring streak to five games with a power-play goal in the first period, a scorching one-timer off a feed from Teuvo Teravainen, who now has 11 points (5g, 6a) in his last five games.
Video: NYR@CAR: Aho tallies five-hole power-play goal
Aho was a hot topic of discussion early in the season when he wasn't finding the back of the net. I said this in a Tweetmail answer on Oct. 25: "I wouldn't worry too much about him just yet. It's coming. And then it will keep coming."
And that's exactly what's happened.
The Hurricanes have reached what is essentially the quarter mark of the season. 20 games in, the team is 9-7-4 with 22 points, sitting just outside of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference.
"There are some things I think we can still clean up. Your game is never perfect. We're not necessarily where we want to be in the standings, either. We want to be a few more up there. We've got some games in hand, but we want to take advantage of our opportunities to win those games and jump up into a playoff spot," Faulk said. "I think everyone in this room believes we can do it. We've shown we can put together runs and play good hockey."
The Hurricanes' four-game homestand will continue on Friday night when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs.