Friday’s date between the Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets was, practically, a playoff game. Two teams fighting for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and the Metropolitan Division.
For the Canes, it was a chance to go a long way in burying the Jackets. For the Jackets, it was a must-win as they looked to make up ground on the Canes.
Ultimately, it came down to six minutes. The first six minutes. And unfortunately for Carolina, the first six minutes were absolutely dominated by the home team, whose hot start saw two loud cannon blasts echo through Nationwide Arena.
All of 3:08 into the game, trade deadline acquisition Adam McQuaid lofted a point shot through traffic and right by Petr Mrazek. It was a real missmatch for Carolina, who had their fourth-line out there against Columbus’ top trio of Artemi Panarin, Pierre-Luc Dubois, and Cam Atkinson and payed for it.
Not even three minutes later, it was another shot by a stay-at-home defenseman that beat Mrazek. Part two was off of David Savard’s stick after an offensive zone faceoff win. Just like that, the Canes were really playing from behind.
From there, it was all Carolina, all the time. By the end of the first period, the Canes had gained their footing and started to impose their will upon the Blue Jackets.
In the second period, the Hurricanes did everything but score - a familiar phrase if you were paying attention back in November and December. In the middle frame, the Canes outshot the Blue Jackets 22-2. Maybe the Canes were just taking low quality shots, right? Surely they weren’t getting tons of grade-a chances.
Bobrovsky was really really really good. pic.twitter.com/99UweAIH3C— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) March 16, 2019
When it was all said and done, the final shot clock read 46-20 in favor of Carolina. The final score, however, read 3-0 in favor of Columbus after more brilliance from their Vezina-caliber goalie in the third period and a Josh Anderson ENG, for good measure.
This was the Sergei Bobrovsky show, and as the game wore on it grew more and more obvious that the Hurricanes couldn’t do anything to change that. At even strength, the Canes had 19 high-danger shot attempts and the Blue Jackets had five.
Among those many great chances for Carolina were some more flashes from 18-year-old Andrei Svechnikov who, fresh off of a three-point night in Colorado on Monday, nearly found the back of the net several times and likely would’ve if it wasn’t for Columbus’ aforementioned very good goalie.
Svechnikov accounted for a game-high four 5-on-5 high-danger shot attempts, just one fewer than Columbus’ entire team total.
Micheal Ferland’s return to the lineup was, largely, a success. He threw the body often and finished with a game-high five shots on goal, including one off of a Columbus turnover in the first period that very nearly snuck by Bobrovsky’s glove.
There’s not much for Carolina to do about this loss outside of living with their effort and moving on to tomorrow night’s borderline must-win game on home ice against the Buffalo Sabres, a club that has tumbled out of playoff contention over the last several weeks.
Curtis McElhinney is expected to get the start on Saturday. A win for the Canes would put them two points ahead of the pesky Blue Jackets (on whom they, currently, still have a game in hand) and make Friday’s loss much more palatable. It’s on the team to respond and not put themselves in a situation where they play the game of “what ifs” at the end of the regular season.
The Hurricanes still control their own destiny.