Playing their 10th road game of the season, the Carolina Hurricanes dropped Friday night’s contest to the Florida Panthers, 5-2, in Sunrise.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi opened the scoring just 1:20 into the contest, finding the back of the net following a shot attempt from Jesper Fast.
Unfortunately for Carolina, that lead, which would be their last of the game, lasted for less than two minutes.
Matthew Tkachuk secured a pass from Carter Verhaeghe in the slot and beat Antti Raanta to tie the contest at 1-all with 16:59 left in the first frame.
Another first period goal from Uvis Balinskis, which marked the first goal of his career, gave the Panthers a one goal advantage and the lead for good heading into the first intermission.
“Our top guys weren’t very good tonight. You’re not going to win if they’re not consistently at least matching the other team’s top guys,” said Rod Brind’Amour. “If you watch their top guys, they were all over. I don’t know where our top guys were.”
A disappointing effort, as emphasized from Brind’Amour, led Florida to a 3-1 advantage in the second period, as Alexander Barkov used a rebound from an Evan Rodrigues shot to extend the lead.
It appeared that Carolina was going to claw back into the contest and put pressure on the Panthers, when Sebastian Aho sent home their second score of the game off of a save from Sergei Bobrovsky.
Heading into the second intermission down a score once again, the Hurricanes found themselves with a chance to earn at least a point on the road and continue their hot stretch.
However, the third period would be controlled by Florida, who used a Carter Verhaeghe goal and an empty-netter from Kevin Stenlund to give the game its final score.
It was an uncharacteristic night for Carolina, who were outshot by their opponent for just the second time this season.
Antti Raanta was unable control a few initial shot attempts that led to score from the Panthers, but finished with 30 saves on 34 shot attempts.
A major plus in the early going for the Hurricanes had been their success on the power play. They entered Friday’s contest ranked seventh in the league, but were unable to convert any of their three chances on the man advantage.
“Up and down through the lineup we could be a little better,” said Sebastian Aho. “Sometimes, the intentions may be there, but the execution isn’t there in puck battles or getting the puck out or in.”
With 16 points through the first 14 contests, there may be some frustrations on the start, but Carolina has missed key contributors at each position and played just four homes games compared to 10 road contests.
That disparity will continue on Saturday, as the Hurricanes face-off against the Lightning in Tampa Bay for the second night of a back-to-back.