Bo Horvat says the Vancouver Canucks simply need to play better if they want a chance at a spot in the post season.
The team ended a five-game points streak on Wednesday with an ugly 5-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.
“That wasn’t very good,” Horvat said after the game. “We gave ourselves a chance there in the second period. And right after that, I think we just kind of took our foot off the gas.”
The Canucks (23-22-6) sit just outside of a wild card spot in the Western Conference as they head into the all-star break.
Wednesday’s loss will linger during the time off, Horvat said.
“We can take this as a fresh start and come back mentally tough and play that much better,” he said. “Over the break, it’s definitely going to be in the back of our minds that we weren’t good enough and we’ll have to push that much harder.”
The Hurricanes (24-20-6) outplayed the Canucks on Wednesday, said Vancouver centre Brandon Sutter.
“Our were working in the corners and we were kind of punching pucks at the wall,” he said. “And their were coming down, we just couldn’t seem to get the puck by them. And it kind of changed the momentum of the game.”
The Canucks knew going in what kind of team they’d be facing, Horvat said. Carolina leads the league in shots per-game with 35.8.
“We knew they were going to come out hard, be a fast team and put lots of pucks on net. We didn’t execute well enough to stop that,” he said.
Sven Baertschi and Josh Leivo scored for Vancouver. Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom stopped 29-of-34 shots.
Teuvo Teravainen had a goal and a pair of assists in the Hurricanes win. Teammates Greg McKegg and Dougie Hamilton also found the back of the net.
Nino Niederreiter notched two goals and now has four since the Minnesota Wild traded him to Carolina for Victor Rask last week.
The 26-year-old right-winger said his new teammates have been creating opportunities for him to score.
“They are great playmakers, you try to find the hole, you have to move around,” he said. “You can’t stand still and wait for something happens, you have to open areas so guys can find you, that’s what has been working well.”
Alex Nedeljkovic made 24 saves for the Hurricanes in his first NHL start on Wednesday.
The 23-year-old netminder has been playing for the American Hockey League’s Charlotte Checkers, posting a 20-5-2 record this season. He was called up earlier this month when Curtis McElhinney suffered a lower-body injury.
Nedeljkovic’s parents flew in to watch him play and he picked them out of the crowd early.
The young goalie said he was excited to get the opportunity to play, but kept some sage advice in the back of his mind.
“One of my goalie coaches told me growing up, ‘play every game like it’s the biggest game of your life so when you play the biggest game of your life it’s just another game.’ So that’s just kind of how I looked at today,” he said. “Just another Wednesday night game and we came out on top.”
Nedeljkovic’s first real test of the night came early in the second period after Canucks rookie Elias Pettersson made a no-look pass to Baertschi in front of the Hurricanes net.
Baertschi took the shot but Nedeljkovic was there to gobble up the puck.
The Swiss left-winger went on to score the Canucks’ second tally of the night midway through the second period.
Pettersson started the play with a behind-the-back pass to Brock Boeser, who got the puck back to the star rookie down in front of the ‘Canes net.
Instead of shooting, Pettersson sliced a pass to Baertschi, who tipped it in through a hole on Nedeljkovic’s blocker side to put Vancouver up 2-1.
Carolina responded with four unanswered goals all in the second period.
“We got down 2-1 and just stuck to the game plan, got pucks in deep, got pucks to the net and got on them,” said McKegg. “And it paid dividends in that period.”
Carolina is a “really, really fast” team, said Vancouver’s goalie.
“They forecheck really hard and they were all over us in the second. They won the most battles. And their scoring chances paid off too,” Markstrom said.
“They wanted these two points more than we did.”
Carolina’s victory caps a three-game road swing that saw the Hurricanes take five points from Canadian teams.
Both the Canucks and Hurricanes are now off for the all-star break followed with a bye week.
The Hurricanes will be back in action on Feb. 1 when they host the Vegas Golden Knights. The Canucks return on Feb. 2, kicking off a four-game road trip in Colorado against the Avalanche.
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