RALEIGH, N.C. • The last thing the Blues wanted Friday was a “Storm Surge” by the Carolina Hurricanes _ at their expense.
That’s the name given to the off-the-wall _ and sometimes (slamming) off-the-boards _ postgame celebration by the Carolina players. None other than noted hockey analyst/celebrity Don Cherry has referred to the Hurricanes as a “bunch of jerks” for what he thinks are disrespectful celebrations.
“It’s not my cup of tea,” Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo said. “But it’s their team and they do their thing. Their fan base seems to like it, so hey.”
Bortuzzo added: “I’m a Don Cherry guy. I always have been. My grandpa was a huge fan, so anything disrespectful to Don Cherry in our house was blasphemy.”
But that’s another story. The real story Friday at PNC Arena is that the Blues couldn’t begin March like they ended February _ with a victory. Instead, a 5-2 loss to Carolina before 15,363 was just the second regulation Blues’ defeat in their last 16 games.
That’s still pretty good. But as the Blues headed to their locker room, there was yet another Storm Surge by a surging Carolina team that entered the night with a record identical to the Blues (34-23-6), and has been just as hot as the Blues since the beginning of the calendar year.
This postgame celebration began like many before, with the Hurricanes gathering at center ice and engaging in the Skol Viking clap. Next, out came former boxing great Evander Holyfield, who attended the game, wearing boxing gloves. Of course. He then “took on” Carolina forward Jordan Martinhook and registered a quick knockout punch.
Obviously the Blues didn’t stick around to watch.
“I don’t really care what they do,” Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said.
What the Hurricanes did on the ice was more than enough to confound the Blues, who had little room to breath, got bumped off pucks much more easily than usual, and never could sustain much in the offensive zone.
“We weren’t heavy enough,” defenseman Vince Dunn said. “We made plays, but it was just kind of a one-and-done kind of play. I just don’t think we were consistently good enough as a whole both offensively and defensively.
“Obviously it’s a different kind of game against a team like this. They’re a very offensive team. They come at you when they have the puck and when they don’t have the puck. I just don’t think we were quick enough to react to that.”
Interim coach Craig Berube knew exactly what to expect from the Hurricanes and undoubtedly hoped his team would handle it much better.
“They checked well,” Berube said. “I thought they did a great job of not giving us any room out there. It was a tight game all around. . . .We never really got to our game.”
Even so, the Blues found themselves in a tie game, 2-2, early in the second period following Dunn’s ninth goal of the season. It was a shot from the point that originally looked like it deflected off Colton Parayko but apparently didn’t.
Dunn picked up an assist on the Blues’ first goal, another shot from the point that was tipped in by Oskar Sundqvist past Hurricanes goalie Curtis McElhinney just seven minutes into the game.
But Carolina scored twice in the opening period on quick shots from the perimeter that got by goalie Jake Allen _ the first by Justin Williams from just outside the left faceoff circle. And the next from Justin Faulk not far inside the blue line.
As a result, the Blues found themselves playing from behind for one of the few times in the past month. It marked the first time since Feb. 5 at Florida, Game 3 of the Blues’ 11-game winning streak, that they trailed after the first period.
And it was the first time since Dec. 16 against Calgary, 33 games ago, that the Blues had given up two or more goals in the opening period.
But the game turned in the second period, after Dunn’s tying goal, with the Blues on the power play on a colossal miscue Allen.
The Hurricanes had cleared the puck down the ice on the penalty kill. Allen went to the corner to retrieve the puck, but couldn’t get there in time. Sebastian Aho raced down the ice, beat Allen to the puck, then scored into an open net with a quick wraparound move before Allen could get back in the crease.
“It just bounced over my stick,” Allen said. “It’s my fault. I let the boys down. Unlucky break. You can’t play it in the trapezoid (or it’s a penalty). I tried to skate as hard as I could to the net and I just couldn’t make it. I dove a little too early.
“Thinking back on it maybe I should’ve just took the penalty and take our chances. But my fault.”
Aho’s 26th goal of the season with 6:57 left in the second period made it a 3-2 Carolina lead and was his fourth shorthanded goal of the season, tying for the NHL lead.
“Everyone makes (mistakes),” Pietrangelo said. “I honestly don’t even know what happened. I didn’t see it. But you gotta pick your teammates up. Stuff’s gonna happen. It’s a small piece of the game.”
Berube didn’t talk to Allen about the play after the game. In fact, as is his custom after losses, he didn’t talk to the team at all.
“I wait until tomorrow,” Berube said. “They’re not a very happy team. Nobody’s happy. So no sense really going in there to say anything.”
Midway through the third period, Jordan Staal delivered the dagger, a quick shot from the left faceoff dot that went off Allen, underneath the crossbar and in. That made it 4-2 and then Andrei Svechnikov closed out the scoring with an empty-netter with 61 seconds remaining.
“Definitely not my best performance,” Allen said. “Hopefully we can regroup tomorrow morning and get back at it and get focused against a divisional team.”
That would be the Dallas Stars, 5-2 winners over the Blues on Feb. 21 with Jordan Binnington in net. They visit Enterprise Center on Saturday night.
“A team that’s trying to catch us,” Pietrangelo said. “So look hard in the mirror and know that that’s not our game (against Carolina). That’s not good enough.
“We didn’t play Dallas good enough last time in their building, so we owe them one now.”