RALEIGH — The Carolina Hurricanes’ near-perfect preseason ended with a concerning thud Sunday. It wasn’t the competitive and exciting 5-4 overtime loss to the Nashville Predators at PNC Arena that made the cringe-worthy noise, but rather the uncertainty surrounding goaltender Scott Darling, who left the game in the second period with a lower-body injury.
“It’s a concern,” coach Rod Brind’Amour said of Darling’s injury. “I’m not 100 percent sure what it is yet. He tweaked something in the lower body when they were all over us there. He was diving all over the place to make saves and he was battling hard and something went in, I think, his hamstring area. But right now I’m not sure how long he’s going to be.”
As for the game, it had the animosity — fueled by Nashville’s P.K. Subban — of a playoff game and the choppy play of a September preseason outing.
Carolina took nine penalties — the majority by its first- or second-year players — to seven by Nashville, and the game lacked continuity because of the constant special teams play.
“It was a real choppy game because of that,” Hurricanes captain Justin Williams said. “A lot of power plays, a lot of penalty kills. And because of that, the flow kind of gets disrupted a little bit, and it gets choppy as you see.”
The teams traded goals throughout the night, with the Predators’ Ryan Johansen book-ending the game with a first-period goal and the overtime winner to hand Carolina its only loss of a 5-0-1 preseason — a training camp that saw the team take on its new coach’s identity.
“We definitely set the foundation for the work ethic that Roddy’s been demanding, and I feel like the group as a whole has been working hard,” said center Jordan Staal, who assisted on Williams’ first-period goal. “It’s shown in the games, but we’ve erred on the side of being aggressive, which has been fun. It’s been exciting hockey, and we’re learning things along the way of when to maybe tone it down at times.”
That has been a by-product of Carolina’s infusion of youth: Four rookies played Sunday, and five — all forwards — could be in the lineup come Thursday’s season opener against the Islanders.
For the second straight game, the Hurricanes saw one of their youngsters take three penalties. Friday it was second overall pick Andrei Svechnikov with three infractions, and Sunday it was camp standout Warren Foegele.
“That’s the last game for that. But we’re OK with that,” Brind’Amour said. “They’re just trying. They’re doing everything they can. We certainly don’t want to pull their reins back on those guys. They’ll learn.”
The rest will be learned when it counts. Carolina will take the day off Monday, then build toward Thursday’s home game.
“I see us trending upward, which is what you want to do throughout your season,” Williams said. “So we want to start strong. I thought a lot of guys made some strides. I thought we made some strides as a team. And I think we established a good base of something to build on.”
Notes: Petr Mrazek stepped in for the injured Darling and stopped 10 of 12 shots — one with Nashville on the power play and the other at 3-on-3 in overtime. … Sebastian Aho, Calvin de Hann and Martin Necas scored the other goals for Carolina. … Micheal Ferland returned to the lineup and made his presence known immediately, delivering a board-rattling hit in the corner to Predators captain Roman Josi. … All four of Carolina’s centers won more faceoffs than they lost, led by Aho’s 15-of-24 night and Staal winning 13 of 22. … Filip Forsberg and Craig Smith finished with three points each for the Predators. … Subban took three minor penalties. … Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros split time in the Nashville net. Rinne stopped 14 of 16, while Saros allowed two goals on 18 shots.