Hurricanes can’t overcome travel, loss of Aho; lose 2-1 in Vancouver

Carolina's star center was a late scratch with an unidentified illness

Canucks players celebrate Brock Boeser's goal as Hurricanes forward Nino Niederreiter skates to the bench during Carolina's 2-1 loss Sunday in Vancouver. (Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press via AP)

The Carolina Hurricanes faced a tall task Sunday night, traveling into Vancouver following the previous night’s win in Edmonton to face the rested Canucks.

“It’s tough,” Hurricanes rookie Seth Jarvis said of the back-to-back games in western Canada. “You learn a lot more about your body and just what you need to take care of it to feel good coming into games like this.”

The task proved even harder when red-hot Sebastian Aho was a late scratch, adding to Carolina’s list of unavailable players.

The Canucks benefited from all their advantages, never trailing in a 2-1 win over the Hurricanes in Carolina’s fourth game of a five-game road trip.

While the Hurricanes’ effort wasn’t in question, the mental mistakes of a road-weary team were on display.

“I think we made it a little harder on ourselves than we needed to tonight,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “Some weird plays that we don’t normally make that led to a couple of their goals. … We just kind of gave them a couple of freebies, and it’s tough to come back when you’re chasing the game.”

The Hurricanes started chasing near the end of the first period.

After Jordan Staal turned the puck over to the Canucks in the Carolina end, J.T. Miller worked a quick 2-on-1 with Brock Boeser for the latter’s seventh goal of the season with 1:31 left in the first.

Another turnover, this one at the Canucks blue line, allowed Vancouver to double its lead.

Ian Cole’s errant pass was stolen by Vancouver defenseman Tyler Myers, who led a 4-on-2 rush that Elias Pettersson finished at 7:44 of the second period for his first goal of the month.

The Hurricanes, true to form, battled back, led by Jarvis, Martin Necas and goalie Antti Raanta.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi chipped the puck out of the Carolina end to create an odd-man chance. Jarvis passed to Necas, and the speedy forward deked to his backhand and scored on Thatcher Demko (29 saves) to halve the Canucks’ lead.

“We’re getting a little more chemistry together,” Necas said of his connection with Jarvis. “You can see he’s got the skill, great skater, and we’re gonna try to connect as much as possible.”

Raanta (24 saves), again a hard-luck loser, kept the Hurricanes within striking distance with several key saves.

“He held us in and the third so we could kind of get back in the game,” Brind’Amour said.

But a late push with Raanta on the bench for an extra skater wasn’t able to yield the tying goal.

The team’s focus now turns to Minnesota, where Carolina should get defensemen Brett Pesce and Tony DeAngelo back in the lineup and conclude their road trip with a game Tuesday against the Wild.

The spotlight also shines brightly on Aho’s status for Tuesday and beyond.

The Hurricanes’ star center had scored multiple points in five straight games, but Brind’Amour said Aho “just didn’t feel right” before Sunday’s game and was left back at the hotel. Brind’Amour did not clarify if Aho was just the latest to battle a flu bug that has circulated through the team or if he was the fourth player on the team to test positive for COVID-19.

“Obviously, I’d be concerned if it was more than one day, but I don’t know,” Brind’Amour said.