RALEIGH — The Hurricanes welcomed their newest player, Nino Niederreiter, Friday night against the Ottawa Senators, and if first impressions are a thing, coach Rod Brind’Amour didn’t think his team made much of one in their listless 4-1 loss in front of 15,598 at PNC Arena.
“I said it in the dressing room, I apologized to him for that effort,” Brind’Amour said. “That’s not our team, and that’s his first game. So I’m sure he thinks we’re — I don’t know what he thinks we are right now.”
Brind’Amour didn’t seem to know what his team was Friday either.
After the Hurricanes squandered two early power plays, Ottawa struck first and never looked back.
Senators defenseman Cody Ceci jumped into the play and blasted a one-timer that Hurricanes goalie Petr Mrazek (22 saves) fought off, but the rebound fluttered into the slot and was knocked out of the air and in by Magnus Paajarvi to make it 1-0 at 15:47 of the opening period.
Ottawa then pushed the lead to three with two goals in a 13-second span during the second period.
First, the Senators again peppered Mrazek with chances until Bobby Ryan snuck on in at 7:26 of the second. Then, off a Chris Tierney faceoff win, Mark Stone scored his 22nd of the season with a wrist shot that went glove side high off the post an in to — despite Mrazek’s best efforts — make it 3-0.
“Sometimes you score one in front of him, sometimes you score five,” captain Justin Williams said. “He made some saves to give us an opportunity, but we never took advantage of it.”
The Hurricanes did find life a few minutes later, and it again came from the emerging fourth line.
Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki first stumbled in his own zone, then recovered, only to turn the puck over thanks to the pressure of Saku Maenalanen. The puck bounced right to Warren Foegele, who tucked it past Anders Nilsson (33 saves) just past the game’s midway point to make it 3-1.
But Ottawa got it right back when Brady Tkachuk out-hustled the Carolina defense to the puck and then zipped a pass to a crashing Christian Wolanin to restore the three-goal lead, 4-1, at 16:25 of the second.
Brind’Amour came away from the game flabbergasted with what he saw from the team.
“We just didn’t want to play the way we’re supposed to,” he said. “I didn’t even know what I was watching. That was the first time all year I can say that. You’re going to lose games, but that was obvious we were going to lose that one.”
Now with consecutive losses after winning seven of eight, the Hurricanes head west for three games in four days starting Sunday in Edmonton. Carolina then has a back-to-back Tuesday and Wednesday in Calgary and Vancouver before the All-Star break, followed by the team’s five-day bye.
“We had a little swagger there, I guess,” Jordan Martinook said of the difference in the team’s mentality when they’re on their game. “I don’t know if we came off it or what the situation is, but we, as a group, I think you can see the games we play well in and the way we play.
“It’s hard to watch and be a part of it when we know how we can play and we can beat good teams and we can beat teams. … We deserved to lose and they were the better team.”
Notes: The Hurricanes lost 19 of 53 faceoffs on the night, a growing concern that has reared its head since Jordan Staal went down with an injury. … Niederreiter finished with eight shot attempts (four on goal) in his Hurricanes’ debut. … Micheal Ferland fought for the second in three games, and he was again given an extra two minutes in what has become curious fight-related officiating by NHL referees. Justin Faulk, who dropped the gloves against Buffalo last Friday, was given four minutes for roughing instead of a fighting major in another curious case. … Clark Bishop, who has not played since Jan. 3 due to injury, was reassigned to Charlotte of the AHL following the game. … Alex Nedeljkovic backed up Mrazek because of a lingering knee injury to Curtis McElhinney.