In their first game at PNC Arena in two weeks, the Carolina Hurricanes were bested 5-1 by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Hurricanes entered the third period down two goals and sliced the Lightning's lead in half, but they could not find the equalizer. Jaccob Slavin scored the Canes' lone goal, while Tampa Bay's game-winner came off the stick of Mikhail Sergachev.
Here are five takeaways from the Canes' return home from their road trip.
Let's get his out of the way first: the final score was 5-1, but looks can be deceiving. This was a 2-1 game until very late in the third period, and the Hurricanes were pushing for the game-tying marker. The Lightning then scored two empty-net goals, and Nikita Kucherov added his league-leading 11th goal of the season in pure garbage time fashion at the 19:56 mark of the third period.
So, the 5-1 final is a bit exaggerated. The game was played much closer than the final score indicates, but the Hurricanes still didn't play well enough to win the game - and that's ultimately what matters.
"That's a good team. They played a good road game," Jordan Staal said. "We didn't play well enough to win, but we started getting momentum and playing in their end a bit in the third."
Video: Hear from Slavin, van Riemsdyk, and Peters Postgame
For the second game in a row, the Hurricanes didn't really seem to truly find their offensive game until the third period. In Dallas on Saturday night, Jeff Skinner's late second-period goal sparked the Canes' comeback. Tonight, it was Slavin who broke through on the scoreboard for the home team, and after that the Canes played with way more spunk than they did in the first 40 minutes.
"Scoring the goal helped. It created a little life in the rink," Staal said. "When it's a one-goal game, you start moving more. You're always trying to get that next goal, but it was too little, too late."
"In spurts [the game] was fine," head coach Bill Peters said. "When we were trying to come back and it was 2-1 or even in the third period in general, we had more traffic at the net, more action at the net and more commitment at the net. We looked dangerous at that time. Through 40, we weren't at the net enough."
Slavin's goal was the result of hard work at the net by the Canes' fourth line of Joakim Nordstrom, Marcus Kruger and Josh Jooris. There was a mad scramble in the crease - bodies sprawled, sticks poking at every little thing that moved, mayhem in general. The puck popped out to Brett Pesce, and he slid it over to Slavin at the top of the umbrella. Slavin took advantage of the ample traffic in front of Andrei Vasilevskiy with a quick wrister that popped into the back of the net.
Video: TBL@CAR: Slavin scores from point after wild scramble
"It was definitely a little bit of a scramble, but once Pesce gave it to me I was thinking put it on net," Slavin said. "There were a lot of bodies there."
"They did their job," Peters said of his fourth line. "We're not on the scoresheet with the guys who need to be on the scoresheet."
The Hurricanes failed to convert on the two power plays they had in the first 10 minutes of the game. The Lightning then got a crack on the man advantage late in the period and converted, as Tyler Johnson tapped in a loose puck in the crease to put the visiting team ahead 1-0.
Twenty seconds into the second period and 33 seconds into the third period, the Canes again had power plays, this time with clean sheets of ice, but they again failed to take advantage.
"We can definitely have a little better killer instinct for putting the puck in the net. Our PP could have been a difference-maker tonight," Staal said. "That's got to be rolling a little better if you want to win games, and tonight it hurt us. One goal on the PP would have made a big difference."
"I think we've just got to work on finishing pucks," Slavin said. "I think we had our chances tonight. We just have to make sure we put them in the back of the net."
Though the man advantage was 0-for-4, it wasn't without its scoring chances. The team's best power play was probably their last, and Aho put a shot square off the inside of the post.
"We had some chances," Peters said. "We had some power plays early in all three periods that we didn't take advantage of."
On the power play or in 5-on-5 play (for what it's worth, Slavin's goal tonight was the first 5-on-5 goal the Canes have scored at home since their opener - granted, this was only their second game since) the Hurricanes need to find a way to break through on a consistent basis, especially when they have ample chances to do so.
"They need to get going. It's time," Peters said of his offensive talents. "They've got to make sure they're getting into the high-traffic areas on a consistent basis and on-and-off the stick. … Let's get a shooter's mentality and get the puck to the net."
"I think we're close," Slavin said. "I think we're doing the right things offensively and getting those chances. I think they're going to start going in."
It's back to Canada for the Hurricanes, who face off with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday. The team then comes back home to host the St. Louis Blues on Friday night.