RALEIGH — Like so many time this season and in recent years, the Carolina Hurricanes had their chances to run an opponent out of the building.
A Jordan Staal shorthanded breakaway that hit the post. A Sebastian Aho chance in alone on Detroit goalie Jonathan Bernier that he couldn’t feather through the five hole. A Justin Williams waltz through the Red Wings defense that was stymied again by Bernier.
And after one shot from the opposition found its way into the back of the Carolina net, the team entered the first intermission wondering what happened.
What happened was despite outshooting the Red Wings 39-24 and holding a more than 2-to-1 advantage in shot attempts, the Hurricanes fell short 4-1 in front of 13,548 Thursday at PNC Arena.
“We dominate stretches of periods and maybe feel — and presumably right — that we should be leading,” Hurricanes captain Justin Williams said. “But we’re not mentally tough enough to be like, ‘All right, that didn’t go our way. Let’s stay with it though.’”
Rookie Andrei Svechnikov tied the game 90 seconds into the second period, but Carolina was unable stick with the game plan — and mistakes cost them.
The Red Wings’ lead was restored at 12:19 of the second when Carolina started chasing the puck in their own end and Frans Nielsen redirecting a Nick Jensen shot past goalie Mrazek to make it 2-1.
The Hurricanes never regained footing.
“We had a little talk after about it. Guys got to be mentally tough enough to stick with it,” coach Rod Brind’Amour said after the game — which included a prolonged closed-door session between coaches and players before the media was allowed to enter the locker room. “And we try to do too much at times, and then it gets away and that’s when we’re not any good.
Detroit then padded the lead early in the third when a seemingly harmless point shot from defenseman Jonathan Ericsson hit Carolina defender Trevor van Riemsdyk and went in. That made it 3-1 at 3:58 of the final period, and the Hurricanes found themselves in an even deeper hole — one Brind’Amour, Williams and others in the locker room said the team can’t dig itself out of by freelancing instead of playing within its structure.
“We’re all part of it — myself, everyone,” Brind’Amour said. “We’ve got to stick with what we’re doing and believe in it. That’s, I guess, the rule. The real crux of it all is you have to believe your game plan is good enough to win. And I know it is. I’ve seen it.”
A length-of-the-ice empty-netter by Dylan Larkin provided the final nail in the coffin.
The Red Wings also opened the scoring, taking a bite out of Carolina’s much-improved penalty kill.
After Carolina defenseman Justin Faulk went to the box for interference, a hard dump in by the Red Wings went right to Hurricanes penalty killer Jordan Martinook. Martinook wheeled around and attempted to slap it out of the zone, but it went right to veteran defenseman Niklas Kronwall.
Kronwall wound up for a shot of his own, and the puck found its way through a screen and past Mrazek to make it 1-0 Detroit at 11:50 of the first.
Svechnikov then got his 10th goal of the season to tie it up.
In the opening minutes of the second, the rookie winger entered the zone along the right wing and ripped a wrist shot into the short-side top corner past Jonathan Bernier to tie the game.
Detroit challenged the play, saying Lucas Wallmark was offside, but the goal was confirmed. The Red Wings were given a delay of game penalty that the Hurricanes did not capitalize on.
From there, the game — and the game plan — seemed to slip away.
“No one feels sorry for you,” Brind’Amour said. “You’ve got to come up tomorrow and we gotta figure out how to get better as a group. That’s kind of the way we look at it. I just know when guys try to do a little too much, it doesn’t really work. We’ve got to stick with our game.”
With games against Pittsburgh, Boston and Washington up next, it’s not going to get easier.
“At the end of the day, you can sit here and say it was good enough,” Faulk said. “But clearly it’s not, right?”
Notes: Svechnikov became the eighth Hurricanes rookie to reach double digits in goals since the team moved to North Carolina. The others are Sebastian Aho (24), Victor Rask (11), Chris Terry (11), Jeff Skinner (31), Eric Staal (11), Erik Cole (16) and Shane Willis (20). … Micheal Ferland and Jordan Staal returned from concussions. Staal missed five games, while Ferland missed seven games and most of an eighth game.