For the Carolina Hurricanes, a season that started with so much promise is in severe danger of running right off the rails.
The Canes outshot the Columbus Blue Jackets 34-18, largely dominated the run of play, yet lost 3-2 in regulation to a divisional rival. It was the Canes’ third loss of the season to the Blue Jackets.
To make matters worse, the Hurricanes lost their best defenseman, Dougie Hamilton, to a lower-body injury that appears serious. Coach Rod Brind’Amour did not have an update after the game beyond admitting the obvious in saying “it doesn’t look good.”
Jordan Staal and Martin Necas scored for the Canes, who completed a short two-game road trip — their only January road games — with zero points in the standings. The loss means they’re now tied for fourth place in the Metro Division with Philadelphia and Columbus, all of whom have 56 points in the standings, and the Hurricanes have the spot only on a tiebreaker.
Petr Mrazek made 15 saves in the losing effort. He’s now lost four of his last five starts, with his only win coming in a 32-save shutout performance against Arizona. Columbus goaltender Elvis Merzlikins won his third straight game and improved to 7-6-4 on the season.
The Blue Jackets took the lead early; Emil Bemstrom snapped a wrister past Mrazek at 1:07 of the first. It was the first shot on goal of the game and Bemstrom’s fifth goal of the season.
Following an effective penalty kill, the Canes settled in and controlled the remainder of the first period, outshooting Columbus 9-4.
It took a good break — literally — for the Canes to get on the board. Seth Jones snapped his twig on a shot attempt in the heart of the Canes zone. Lucas Wallmark found Necas behind the defense to spring him for a breakaway, and the rookie made no mistake.
His goal ended two streaks. For Columbus, Merzlikins entered Thursday night riding a two-game shutout streak. For Carolina, It was their first goal since Teuvo Teravainen’s empty netter against the Kings — a span of 88 total minutes of game time.
Then things went from bad to worse. Late in the second period, Hamilton took an awkward tumble into the boards late in the second period when he got tied up with Kevin Stenlund in the neutral zone and appeared to injure his left leg. He could not get off the ice without assistance from Trevor van Riemsdyk and trainer Doug Bennett, and went immediately to the locker room, not returning to the game.
The teams then traded goals in the third period. Cam Atkinson scored on his return from an ankle injury, and Jordan Staal tipped in a Teuvo Teravainen shot to tie it up again. The game appeared destined for overtime, but Nick Foligno found a loose puck in the slot and beat Mrazek at 18:19 of the third.
It’s yet another divisional loss for the Hurricanes, who now fall to 4-10-1 within their own division.
Brind’Amour summed up the frustration:
"I think we were the better team. And I liked the way our team played. Sometimes it doesn't go your way."— FOX Sports Carolinas (@CanesOnFSCR) January 17, 2020
-Rod Brind'Amout on tonight's loss in Columbus.@Canes | #LetsGoCanes pic.twitter.com/fI6dWQ6OJv
The Canes return home to face the Anaheim Ducks tomorrow night — their first game in a five-game homestand interrupted by the bye week and the All-Star break.