All good things must come to an end, and a franchise best season-opening win streak came to an end for the Carolina Hurricanes Saturday night.
An early third-period goal led the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 3-2 win over Carolina in PNC Arena, as the Hurricanes let a 2-1 lead slip away in their new white threads. Forward Erik Haula and defenseman Dougie Hamilton tallied for the Canes, who now sit at 5-1-0 on the young season.
The Canes seemed just a step behind all night, and it led to their first loss of the season. All three of Columbus’ goals came from some avoidable mistakes from Carolina, as the Hurricanes just weren’t sharp Saturday night.
The Blue Jackets opened the scoring with a gimme tap-in from Markus Nutivaara, who received a great pass from Ryan Murray and sent it into a wide-open net. Nutivaara couldn’t have been more open, as he snuck into a scoring position as all five Canes’ skaters watched the puck with no one helping out on the far side of the net.
Carolina answered, and even took the lead, but let Columbus come back to win the game. The Blue Jackets’ tied things up early in the second, as Oliver Bjorkstrand simply out-worked Sebastian Aho to fire off a shot on net that James Reimer couldn’t get to. Bjorkstrand circled the net with Aho on his hip, as the Canes All-Star forward lacked the effort and strength to affect the Columbus winger.
The game winner came on a breakaway following an ugly Brock McGinn turnover, as Pierre-Luc Dubois carried the puck down the ice and slotted a backhand past Reimer. All three of Columbus’ goals were good, fundamental hockey plays, but they all easily could have been avoided by Carolina with a little more effort or awareness.
With all that being said, the Canes were right in the game until the very end. Great teams find a way to be competitive and give themselves a chance to win when they play bad, and that’s what Carolina did Saturday night.
The Best Offense is a Good (Scoring) Defense
The offensive production that the Hurricanes have gotten from the blue liners so far this year has been absurd, and that continued in Saturday’s loss to the Blue Jackets.
Carolina’s second goal of the game came from a beautiful snipe off the stick of Hamilton, who roofed one past Korpisalo from the top of the circle.
Dougie Hamilton roofs a laser-beam slap shot for his 4th goal and 8th point in 6 games this season. He's on an unbelievable run right now. pic.twitter.com/chYUfNonra— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) October 13, 2019
The snipe marked Hamilton’s fourth tally of the season in just the Canes sixth game, a number that leads all NHL defensemen. To add to the Canes’ offense from the defensemen, Jaccob Slavin assisted Hamilton’s goal for his third apple of the season.
So far this season, the Canes have netted 23 goals. Of those 23, nine have come from defensemen, making 39 percent of Carolina’s goals this year off the stick of defensemen.
Compare that to last year’s Canes, who had 20 percent of their goals from the blue line, and so far Carolina is getting significantly more offensive contribution from the defensive corps. Hamilton has carried the bulk of that, but Brett Pesce, Slavin and Jake Gardiner have also joined in on the goal-scoring fun.
Carolina has always had defensemen that are dangerous in the attack, and so far this year it’s paying off. Hamilton is off to a blazing hot start this year, and it’s a big reason why the Canes are 5-1-0.
Welcome to the Canes, Erik Haula
Perhaps the best part of Carolina’s wonderful start to the season has been the play of Haula, who was acquired from Vegas over the offseason in exchange for Nicolas Roy and a conditional draft pick.
So far, Haula has done nothing but score for the Canes. The Finnish forward has a team-leading five goals through six games, which included a first-period tally to open up the scoring for Carolina Saturday night.
Haula was a huge part of the success of Vegas’ run to the Stanley Cup Final in its inaugural season, tallying a career-high 29 goals that season. However, Haula’s second year with the Golden Knights was cut short, as he suffered a gruesome knee injury that ended his season just 15 games into the year.
With Haula joining the Canes, the big question was whether or not Carolina was going to get the 2017-18 version of Haula, or one that regressed as he dealt with coming back from a major injury. So far, the Canes seem to have gotten that 29-goal Haula, and that’s a huge boost for the Carolina offense.
The Canes were going to lose their first game sooner or later. Carolina still leads the NHL in points, tied at 10 with the Edmonton Oilers, and appears to have not missed a beat after a strong second half last year.
- Alex Nedeljkovic isn’t the only player expected to make a name for himself in the AHL this season. [The Hockey News]
- The November 16 Fayetteville Marksmen game will have some familiar flourishes:
We're thrilled to announce our #BunchOfJerks night in collaboration with the @Canes!— Fayetteville Marksmen (@Marksmen_Hockey) October 11, 2019
You'll be able to meet @DtrHamilton and @NHLStormy while hearing @minter over the PA on November 16th!
Get your now: https://t.co/E8pfjgNZ88#FearTheFox pic.twitter.com/KDsO7uCUbL
- Former Chelsea and Arsenal goaltender Petr Cech is changing sports, signing to play with a team in the Czech second division. His goalie helmet honors fellow Czech goalie Dominik Hasek. [NHL.com]
- From Matthew Tkachuk vs. Drew Doughty to the Sharks vs. the Golden Knights to Todd Reirden vs. who knows what, the NHL is suddenly embracing the hate. [ESPN]