The Carolina Hurricanes, for the third game in a row, had a chance to stake a claim to a playoff spot on Saturday afternoon in Columbus. Instead, they have now used up their games in hand and are still on the outside looking in after a 3-2 loss to the Blue Jackets that extended their losing streak to three.
Similar to last night in Raleigh against the Penguins, the retooled Canes looked good early, outshooting Columbus 8-1 in the early going. The line of Jordan Staal, Elias Lindholm and Brock McGinn, one of two lines that Bill Peters left alone after yesterday’s dumpster fire of a game, created chance after chance, and Staal in particular forced Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky into a couple of big saves.
Then, like clockwork, the Canes surrendered a first career goal to break the ice. Markus Hannikainen, recently recalled to Columbus from the AHL, cleaned up after the Canes (again) had trouble defending a play generated from behind the net, poking a rebound through Michael Leighton five minutes in.
Scott Hartnell doubled the Jackets’ lead ten minutes later, taking advantage of lax defending by Ryan Murphy and blasting a slap shot from just inside the blue line past Leighton. The Canes’ goaltender then denied Brandon Dubinsky on an outstanding kick save 30 seconds after Hartnell scored, his pad keeping it a two-goal game.
Murphy and Leighton, giving Cam Ward a break after 21 straight starts, were two of the four changes that Peters made to the lineup on Saturday. Teuvo Teravainen, Noah Hanifin and Matt Tennyson also earned tickets to the press box, replaced in the lineup by Ty Rattie, who made a strong case to continue his presence in the lineup, and Klas Dahlbeck. The pairing of Murphy and Dahlbeck was on the ice for both of the Jackets’ first-period goals.
The Canes cut the lead in half midway through the second period on Sebastian Aho’s 12th of the season, a power play goal that snapped a 1-for-37 skid dating to January 5 in St. Louis. It was Aho’s first PPG of his career, and was part of a dominant second period by the Canes, who outshot the Jackets 9-2 in the frame.
Justin Faulk then tied the game five minutes later, converting a 2-on-1 after Rattie forced a turnover. Faulk used Jeff Skinner as a decoy and went high on Bobrovsky, scoring his second goal in the last four games.
The Canes continued to pour on the pressure in the third period, outshooting Columbus 15-6, but one of those six was the game-winner. Sam Gagner skated away from Jaccob Slavin at the blue line and forced Brett Pesce to overcommit, leaving Hartnell all alone at the back post to tap in Gagner’s pass and give the Jackets a 3-2 lead.
Gagner then took a holding penalty with 3:44 to go, but even with Leighton pulled for a sixth attacker, the Canes could only muster two shots the rest of the way, and they fell for the third straight game, remaining outside the playoff cut line and with their margin for error now used up.
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