After three games of strong hockey, the Hurricanes were due for a relapse. An early third period surge wasn’t enough to overcome a four-goal Nashville lead and the Hurricanes fell, 5-2. The ‘Canes finished a 4-game home stretch 3-1, but failed to catch the Washington Capitals in the chase for the division lead.

Although the power play has been clicking recently, the Hurricanes squandered five power plays in the first period, including nearly two and a half minutes of 5-on-3. The power play looked shaky and lacked rhythm, and they could manage only a few feeble shots on goal before the puck was swept out of the zone by the increasingly-ambitious Nashville penalty killers.

Shortly after the second 5-on-3 expired, the Predators fired the first of four consecutive goals past Cam Ward. Ward allowed four goals on 17 shots through the first two periods, but Laviolette refused to pull the trigger on a goaltender switch, even when things look to be going downhill.

Matt Cullen scored a beautiful goal 32 seconds into the third period to inject some life into the crowd, fighting off two defensemen and sending the puck top shelf. Chad LaRose followed that with a fluky goal that just made it in off the crossbar.

Fans had visions of a miraculous comeback dancing in their heads, but Shea Weber, the NHL leader in points scored by defensemen, scored his second of the night and took the wind out of Carolina’s sails. The Hurricanes are now 3-3-1 against Western Conference opponents.

After a three-goal performance on Friday, Eric Staal was held without a shot on goal for the first time this season.

This is hopefully a fluky game and does not reflect any underlying problems, because the Hurricanes will not have time to work on them. The team traveled to Sunrise, Florida tonight to take on the Panthers tomorrow, and a back-to-backer is brutal even without power play troubles.