RALEIGH — For 50 minutes, the Carolina Hurricanes looked like a team feverishly battling for a playoff spot. Ahead by three over the Boston Bruins on home ice and scoring all the ways a team wants to — on the power play, with a two-man advantage, crashing the net, shorthanded — the Hurricanes look unstoppable.
And then it all came crashing down, a microcosm of what will now likely be nine straight years outside of the postseason.
The Bruins scored five times in the third — including three times in 77 seconds — in a 6-4 win over Carolina in front of 14,081 at PNC Arena.
“I’m still kind of stunned, really,” Hurricanes winger Justin Williams, who scored one of Carolina’s goals, said. “How things can go so right for 50 minutes, and you can dig in and do all the things right. And you let one goal turn into another one turn into another one. I don’t know what else to say.”
Neither did coach Bill Peters, who shared little with the media after the game about his job security or whether or not major changes need to be made with this team.
“Are you concerned about a culture of losing that seems to be brewing here?”
“Yeah, that’s a fair question,” Peters responded.
“Are you concerned about it?”
“Yeah,” he said.
“Does there need to be a turn over here? Is there something fundamentally wrong?”
“That’s a good question,” Peters said in ending the press conference.
Until Matt Grzelcyk scored with 9:56 remaining, everything seemed under control.
The Hurricanes trailed on a Brad Marchand goal with 10.5 seconds left in the first period, but blitzed the Bruins in the second.
Carolina’s red-hot Finnish connection connected on two power plays, the first the 25th goal for Sebastian Aho and the second a 5-on-3 score for Teuvo Teravainen.
Williams, the grizzled veteran and three-time Cup winner had proclaimed at the beginning of the year, “We’re done losing. It’s time to climb the ladder and get relevant.”
After the game, he had the same wide-eyed stare seen from so many Hurricanes this season and in the past.
“It’s beyond anger, to be honest,” he said. “We have thousands of Boston fans cheering for them when we’re at home. I mean, it’s a product of what’s happening. It’s beyond upsetting, but we’ve got to look at ourselves and know that we’re responsible for what we’ve done to this point.”
The collapse happened with the Bruins down three men: defensemen Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug and forward Jake DeBrusk were all in the locker room when Boston scored five times with just 15 skaters on the bench.
“I don’t even know what to… To be honest, we’re sitting here saying — I think I’ve been asked that question probably too many times this year,” defenseman Justin Faulk said when asked how the team bounces back from the crushing loss. “I think I’ve been asked after playing these guys before earlier this year, ‘How do we regroup?’ … I mean, you guys know. We know. Everyone knows where we’re at in the standings, and you want to sit here and say, ‘Yeah, we’re going to come back and regroup.’
“And we have to, that’s the bottom line,” Faulk continued. “We’ve got to try and win 12 games, I guess. We’re going to try and win all 12. Besides giving a cliche answer — just taking time off and coming back ready to go and put in the work — I don’t really have much for you.”
For 50 minutes, the Hurricanes had everything they wanted — and then it dissipated, like its playoff hopes.
Peters was asked if losing is contagious.
“That’s a fair question. Answer that at the end of the year.”