ST. PAUL, Minn. - The Carolina Hurricanes dropped a 6-2 decision to the Minnesota Wild, who used a prolific start to the second period to sink the Canes.
Phil Di Giuseppe and Derek Ryan scored for the Hurricanes in the third period, and Eric Staal potted two goals against his former team.
Coming into tonight's game, the Wild had posted a stellar 20-2-5 record at home in their last 27 games. Unfortunately for the Canes, that dominance was on display again tonight.
Eric Staal burned his former team for a power-play goal - and his 35th in what has been a renaissance season for the veteran forward - in the first five minutes of the game, and the Canes had to chase the game from there.
"It's tough when you have a game like that. I thought at times we did good things, but in the end over the full 60 minutes we didn't execute at a high level. Our passes were off, our situational awareness was off, we were in the wrong spots at the wrong times, we were pinching when we shouldn't be," Ryan said. "More than anything, we can just learn that we have to play our systems and the right way if we want to win. We can just fly around and run and gun."
It was a manageable 1-0 deficit after one period, but things got out of hand quickly in the second. It took the Wild just three minutes and 28 seconds to net four goals and stretch their lead to 5-0.
The weird bounce off Nino Niederreiter just 23 seconds into the period was perhaps a harbinger of things to come. A seemingly harmless point shot came in high, and it bounced in off Niederreiter's upper body.
The Wild would then score three goals in just 1:28, beginning with a tic-tac-toe passing play on the power play finished off by Zach Parise. Daniel Winnik's goal that made it 4-0 Minnesota ended Cam Ward's night in net. And then coming in cold, Darling had to face Eric Staal on a breakaway, and the former Cane scored his second goal of the game and 36th of the season to put the Hurricanes in a 5-0 hole.
"I just don't think we were ready to play today. That's the bottom line," Di Giuseppe said. "We didn't match their compete in the second."
"They were just capitalizing and getting some bounces. They were getting those chances in the first and got them throughout the whole second period," Ryan said. "The puck were going in, and we continued to not compete at a high level."
"We've got to have a better response and a little more push-back," head coach Bill Peters said. "We've got to come out of the dressing room a little bit more organized and ready to play than that."
For what it's worth, Darling settled into the game after Staal's goal. He made a nice stop on a wrap-around, a desperation diving effort that saved what would have been Minnesota's sixth goal of the game. The goal light came on, but that was wishful thinking - and perhaps a little trigger happy at that point.
Video: CAR@MIN: Darling dives to make incredible stick save
"I thought he unfortunately had too many quality and quantity," Peters said. "Left our goalies out to dry a little bit, both guys."
The Hurricanes' success in the win column comes and goes with their ability to score, it seems. Di Giuseppe got the Canes on the board in the third period, but the game was already well out of hand by then. In any case, it was textbook net front presence to redirect a point shot off the stick of Trevor van Riemsdyk.
Video: CAR@MIN: Di Giuseppe tips home van Riemsdyk's slapper
Ryan added another goal late on the power play, another redirection off a one-time blast from Victor Rask.
Video: CAR@MIN: Ryan pots PPG on redirection in front
Other than that, Sebastian Aho probably had the team's best chance to score, and that came in the first period. Off a turnover created by Teuvo Teravainen, Aho walked in clean. On his backhand, he tried to slide the puck through Devan Dubnyk's five-hole to no avail.
"I thought we got going and had some real good looks," Peters said. "Felt good about that part of it, and I thought we were on our way to building a quality game."
How will the Hurricanes respond on Thursday? Just 15 games remain in the regular season, and with the losses accumulating, the team's playoff chances become slimmer by the day. There still will be something to be said about how the Canes finish out this season, whether it results in them playing beyond April 7 or not.
"At this point, we don't really want to take anything from this game. We just want to move on from this game, play in Chicago on Thursday, flush this game and make sure we're coming out and playing the way we know how to play at a high level, executing and playing our system," Ryan said. "We're looking to move on from this one, but at the same time we have to realize that when we play this way, this is the result."
"You've got to remember how this feels. That's not a very good feeling. It's not a lot of fun playing like that. Remember that," Peters said. "We've got to compete at a higher level across the board."
The Hurricanes head to Chicago to face off with the Blackhawks on Thursday, their final visit to a Western Conference city this season.