Hurricanes’ anger over Game 1 loss should be directed inward

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Brind’Amour after loss to Boston: ‘We’re not going to win if we don’t play it better than that’

Rod Brind’Amour addresses the media following the Hurricanes’ 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins in game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs Thursday night, May 9, 2019.

Rod Brind’Amour addresses the media following the Hurricanes’ 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins in game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs Thursday night, May 9, 2019.

Justin Williams was angry before the game was halfway over, yapping at Zdeno Chara in front of the net after taking a surreptitious punch to the face, the referees convening the two bickering captains for multiple center-ice summits during television timeouts. By the time it was over, the Carolina Hurricanes had more than enough to fuel their fury.

They grumbled about the officiating, with some of their gripes legitimate and others less so, but their real anger lay within.

Over their inability to translate their form from the second round onto this bigger stage. Over their indiscipline. Over their inability to steal a win on the road after leading after two periods. And over their failure to demonstrate the resilience they have relied upon throughout this postseason after falling behind in the third.

They will have two days to stew over all of that after this 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins on Thursday to open the Eastern Conference finals, a game the Hurricanes were dominating at the second intermission only to see it slip away in three minutes thanks to a pair of Boston power-play goals 28 seconds apart to start the third.

And like that, it was gone.

“In the playoffs, we’ve been pretty successful holding leads,” Williams said. “We got kicked in the pants a little today. That hasn’t happened in a while.”

The sequence to which the Hurricanes primarily objected saw Dougie Hamilton called for a phantom roughing penalty – as he was taking a hit – while Sean Kuraly’s from-behind trucking of Andrei Svechnikov at center ice went unpenalized a few seconds later, an unfortunate pairing of badly blown calls.

The rest of it? The best way to keep from getting jobbed by the vagaries of NHL officiating is to not let the game get into the officials’ hands in the first place.

The Hurricanes have to take responsibility for the Jordan Staal boarding penalty and the Hamilton interference penalty that bookended that Boston power play, less for the degree of egregiousness of the offenses than for giving the referees a chance to make a call, justified or otherwise, that could change the game.

The Hurricanes knew they couldn’t take penalties against a power play clicking along at nearly 30 percent; they certainly couldn’t take five of them, no matter the specific circumstances.

And they certainly didn’t need Hamilton, already the preferred target of the local gentry after his awkward exit from these precincts four years ago, putting himself in this position, the crowd chanting his name derisively during his second trip to the box.

“I just watched both of them,” Hamilton said. “I didn’t agree with either. Not much else to say. The game’s over and there’s not much we can do about it now.”

Already missing Trevor van Riemsdyk, the Hurricanes’ defense is immutable. Hamilton has to play, and play a lot, but he has to play better than this.

So, for that matter, do the Hurricanes. Their second period was outstanding, and they even had a chance to make it 3-1 on the penalty-kill late in the second, but Brock McGinn hit the side of the open net at the end of an odd-man rush. Given the security the Hurricanes felt at the time, it seemed merely inconvenient.

But they struggled to find their feet in the first and rally after falling behind in the third, the latter more curious and perhaps worrisome given the extraordinary resilience they have shown throughout this postseason, often in circumstances more difficult than this.

“We’re not going to win if we don’t play better than that,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “We had spurts, but it’s not going to be good enough in the regular season, and it’s certainly not going to be good enough this time of year. We’ll regroup and try to get better for the next game.”

Their anger over the officiating will fade. It always does. Their anger over the way they let this slip away will linger until Sunday.

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