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Game Analysis: Hurricanes Squander Lead Against Columbus

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Despite building a 3-1 lead after one period, the Hurricanes couldn't hold on for two points at home Tuesday against the Blue Jackets, falling in a shootout.

Ron Hainsey has been overmatched some nights trying to play on Carolina’s top pairing with Justin Faulk.
Ron Hainsey has been overmatched some nights trying to play on Carolina’s top pairing with Justin Faulk.
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Faulk had three first-period points and Carolina’s power play connected twice, but the Hurricanes’ penalty kill faltered for the second straight game, allowing three goals in an eventual 4-3 shootout loss to Columbus Tuesday at PNC Arena.

Three Observations

1. It's not panic time for the Carolina penalty kill. Last night, the Hurricanes dressed four defenseman who are on two-way deals, so the team is light on blue line experience in all aspects, not just the PK. Rasmus Rissanen and Michal Jordan both look like defenders with limited NHL ice time, but both also tried to play to their strengths — that's encouraging for their development. Ryan Murphy and Brett Bellemore have more time under their belts, but Murphy still looks a bit rusty coming back from injury, and Bellemore, quite frankly, never looks comfortable unless he's riding shotgun to Ron Hainsey. There will be more nights like Tuesday (and Sunday) for the Carolina PK and its defense as a whole, but this is a valuable time for the coaching staff and front office to evaluate these young players and see who improves.

2. Carolina clearly wilted once Columbus came out hitting in the second period. That doesn't mean they quit — the Canes still had their chances and Sergei Bobrovsky was brilliant after his team abandoned him in the first — but it's clear GM Ron Francis needs to add more snarl — think rugged forecheckers, not goons — to his lineup in the offseason, otherwise his team is going to continue having trouble against physical teams like the Jackets.

3. Victor Rask notched a beautiful power play goal to close out the Carolina scoring, taking a pass to Bobrovsky's left on a sharp angle and one-timing it over the goalie’s left shoulder to push the Hurricanes’ lead to 3-1 near the end of the first. More and more, Rask is showing off his offensive side. After just one point in December, Rask has 14 points in 26 games in 2015 and is growing more and more confident in the attacking zone. The question will be whether Rask can make the leap into a legitimate No. 2 center or be a very good No. 3.

Number To Know

0 — Blocked shots for Bellemore, and Carolina could have used at least one. On Columbus' first goal, Bellemore found himself caught between shooter Cam Atkinson and eventual goal scorer Rene Bourque. With Atkinson at a pretty sharp angle, Bellemore would have been served to either pressure him to the corner, clear out Bourque from in front of Cam Ward, or prepare to block a shot. Instead, Atkinson fired a shot through Bellemore's legs that Bourque redirected, giving the Jackets life. If Bellemore wants to make it as a full-time NHLer, it will be by playing tough and blocking shots. The 38 blocks in 37 games he has under Bill Peters in this system won't cut it.

Plus

Justin Faulk — Faulk reclaimed the Hurricanes scoring lead with his three-point night, opening the scoring with a nifty deke-and-shoot move from the top of the circle 36 seconds into the game and adding two more assists on Carolina’s other two goals of the first period. Faulk logged a team-high 23:50 (it would be surprising if he didn't lead the team in each game for the remainder of the season) and had seven shot attempts, including four on goal. He leads the team in assists (31), points (44) and power play points (18), among other categories.

Minus

Ron Hainsey — Yes, the Hurricanes are asking several young players to play in roles above their current skill level, but that also goes for the veteran Hainsey, who now finds himself as a top-pairing defenseman. In actuality, Hainsey is probably best suited as a No. 5, maybe a No. 4, so expecting him to succeed in a major role against top line players is foolish. Still, Hainsey was a big part of Carolina’s penalty killing success this season, but Tuesday he was in the box for Columbus’s first man-advantage goal, then on the ice for the other two.