RALEIGH — If Rangers forward Chris Kreider’s goal 52 seconds into the game wasn’t enough to convince onlookers that Wednesday wasn’t going to be the Carolina Hurricanes’ night, what happened 94 seconds later was proof positive.
New York center Mika Zibanejad flipped the puck high in air from outside the blue line toward Hurricanes goalie Scott Darling, who whiffed with his glove, giving the Rangers a two-goal lead just 2:26 into the first.
Carolina never recovered, dropping a 6-1 decision in front of 11,398 at PNC Arena.
“They all suck. It doesn’t really matter how you do it,” Hurricanes co-captain Jordan Staal said. “When they’re tight, they hurt. When they’re blowouts they suck, too. So it’s something that we’ll have to eat it and learn from it and move forward and have a rebound game next game and continue what we want to build.”
The Rangers jumped out to an early lead when Brendan Smith found Kreider alone at the right faceoff dot for an easy one-timer into an open net in the game’s first minute. Then, the Darling mishap.
“Yeah, that’s a tough one to give up, obviously,” Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said. “It’s not how you envision, and how you envision the start.”
Sebastian Aho had Carolina’s lone goal, power play tally at the 8:50 mark of the first — his fifth-straight game with a goal — to pull Carolina back within one, but Rangers forward Paul Carey answered less than two minutes later to stretch the lead back to two goals.
A scoreless second period gave way to the third, and when Kreider got his second, on the power play, the rout was on. Jesper Fast tripled his output on the year with his second and third goals of the season, and Carolina wilted.
“I think the biggest thing was probably going in to the third — we had a chance, we’re down two,” defenseman Justin Faulk, the Hurricanes’ other captain, said. “But we had some chances and we knew what we had to do to kind of … give ourselves an opportunity. They get the first one there on their power play, we have a chance on our power play, and pretty much just got outworked on our power play. And from there on out, pretty much the remainder of the third period.”
The blame went beyond Darling, who despite giving up the missed pop fly goal was hung out to dry most of the night by a poorly positioned and sometimes disinterested group in front of him.
“It looks like we lost focus a little bit,” Peters said. “I’m sure everyone’s got family in town and you get a little distracted with that, so now we’ve got two more through the Thanksgiving holiday, right? We gotta bounce back.”
And that bounce back includes a practice Thursday on Thanksgiving — the team’s reward for being the turkey on Wednesday — before Carolina hosts Toronto on Friday and then Nashville for a Sunday matinee.
“We gotta skate tomorrow — you can’t have a day off after a performance like that,” Peters said. “So we’re going to have to skate tomorrow and then bear down for the rest of the homestand here.”
Stuck in a group of eight teams with between 21 and 25 points, the Hurricanes — at 22 with multiple games in hand on all those teams but two — need to regroup quickly from their worst effort of the season.
“It pisses you off. It’s not fun,” a visibly — and vocally — frustrated Staal said. “No one likes those ones. No one in this room is going to take it lightly, including myself, and we’re going to be ready to work next game and ready to work tomorrow at practice.
“There’ll be some fire, I’m sure, next game from everybody and we’ll try to get a better effort next game.”
Notes: Teuvo Teravainen, named the NHL’s No. 1 star of the week on Monday, got a secondary assist on Aho’s power play goal. Faulk earned the primary helper. … Noah Hanifin, Brett Pesce and Jeff Skinner were all minus-3, and all but Haydn Fleury, Marcus Kruger and Brock McGinn finished as minus players for Carolina. … The Rangers defense pairing of Nick Holden and Brendan Smith were both plus-4, including plus-3 in the first period. … Peters lamented Carolina’s start in the faceoff circle, saying the team lost 10 of the first 11 draws. The Hurricanes wound up ahead in faceoffs on the night, 31 to 27, with Kruger winning 7 of 8. … Carolina had 12 shots on goal on five power play opportunities. … Jaccob Slavin was credited with a game-high four giveaways in a team-high 20:31.