RALEIGH — It wasn’t surprising that the Carolina Hurricanes looked out of sorts coming out of their bye week. It just took an extra day for the lull to set in.
A day after the Hurricanes returned from the bye with a win in Detroit, the Vegas Golden Knights chased Carolina goalie Scott Darling with three goals in the game’s first 13 minutes en route to a 5-1 win in front of 15,303 at PNC Arena.
“The concerns, I think, were well-founded,” Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said. “I don’t think we played great last night — I thought we found a way to win. And then tonight we got skated by a team that had a day off and was sitting and waiting, and that’s what you should do. You should pounce on teams in that scenario and they did.”
The Golden Knights struck first by using its speed through the neutral zone. William Carrier rushed up the right wing and drew the attention of both Joakim Nordstrom and Trevor van Riemsdyk, leaving Pierre-Edouard Bellemare alone in front to receive a drop pass for a goal just 2:55 into the game.
Later in the first, they used a 39-second burst to push their lead from one to three.
First, with Justin Faulk in the box for interference, Vegas’ power play made quick work of their time, with Colin Miller blasting a one-timer past starter Scott Darling to make it 2-0 at 12:20 of the first.
Then on the next shift, Jonathan Marchessault took a seemingly innocent wrist shot that beat Darling (9-13-6) over his left shoulder, making it 3-0 and ending Darling’s night after just eight shots and less than 13 minutes.
“Every day you probably hear from someone that the start’s important,” Carolina defenseman Justin Faulk said. “It’s important to try and get a good game going or build a game early, and whether it’s create offense or just have your game going the right way, it’s always important and we didn’t have that tonight.”
The Hurricanes (21-18-8) did have a moment where the game could have turned, courtesy of a big hit by Elias Lindholm.
Chasing the puck in the Vegas end, Lindholm cleanly checked Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt against the boards. Marchessault took exception, first taking a run at Lindholm, then dropping the gloves.
The refs assessed roughing penalties, with an extra two minutes to Vegas (31-11-4), and on the ensuing power play Jaccob Slavin punched in a chance off the far side post and in to make it 3-1 in the final minute of the opening period to give the Hurricanes life.
Carolina’s goal scoring, however, dried up from there, in part due to its struggles to score at 5-on-5. The Hurricanes have just two even-strength goals in the last four games.
“We’ve got one even-strength goal, the Williams goal, and that’s it,” Peters said if the back-to-back games, referencing Justin Williams’ goal on Saturday in Detroit. “And I’ll have to look at it, but we weren’t at the net hard enough.”
James Neal added a goal near the game’s midway point, putting a rebound past Ward on the power play, and Brandon Leipsic’s tap-in with less than 10 minutes left in the third finished off the scoring.
“I think it starts from their net out,” Slavin said of Vegas’ success, perhaps unknowingly pinpointing the Hurricanes’ own situation. “They’ve got a strong goaltender and they’ve just been able to buy into a system there.”
Peters is steadfast in his system, again proclaiming that “winning hurts” and that the Hurricanes “can’t have passengers.”
“We need some better play out of some guys,” he said. “Some guys might be a little bit too comfortable, there’s no question about that.”