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About Last Night: Coming up short in Columbus

The Canes fell to the Blue Jackets 3-2 Monday night in Columbus despite a great game from Brock McGinn and a solid night for Alex Nedeljkovic.

NHL: FEB 08 Hurricanes at Blue Jackets Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In the second half of a back-to-back, the Carolina Hurricanes fell to the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 Monday night.

The Canes tied the game at 2-2 in the second period thanks to Brock McGinn, but a Jack Roslovic tally late in the third won the game for the Blue Jackets and moved the Canes to 7-3-0 on the season.

Here are some takeaways from the Canes’ loss:

A hot hand for Brock McGinn

A definite bright spot for Carolina Monday night was the play of McGinn, who’s been playing some good hockey of late.

McGinn scored his fourth goal of the season and extended his goal streak to three games in the second period, tying the game up with a diving, all-out effort.

Apart from the goal, McGinn did a lot of other great things Monday. He had a team-high three shots, and also had two hits, including this absolutely crushing blow to Oliver Bjorkstrand.

Let’s take another look at that one.

McGinn’s been playing really well for the Canes in the last few games, and he’s been a key piece. He led the team in expected goals and was second in Corsi for Monday night. Over his three-game goal streak, McGinn has been top three on the team in expected goals.

Monday night, the Hurricanes’ top two line combinations in CF% had McGinn on them, and his presence was clear and obvious.

“He plays hard every night,” said head coach Rod Brind’Amour. “He’s very consistent in that. And I think he’s getting some bounces that he doesn’t normally get. He didn’t get much last year. Now he’s gotten a few. And obviously we’re playing him with more opportunity and in a different role right now. He’s been really good.”

A game to build on for Alex Nedeljkovic

A big storyline for the Canes Monday night was that Alex Nedeljkovic would be in goal, his first game of the season as he finds himself with the top team due to the thumb injury to Petr Mrazek.

Nedeljkovic had just six NHL games under his belt coming into Monday night, with mixed results. He played four times in 2019-20 after Mrazek and James Reimer suffered injuries together (remember David Ayres), and he was OK but not great. He did have a really strong outing in a 28-save win over Pittsburgh in Carolina’s penultimate regular season contest.

Monday night in Columbus, Nedeljkovic was pretty good. The Blue Jackets’ three goals came in a variety of ways, with the first coming from an awkward bounce that Nedeljkovic could do nothing about, despite his best efforts.

The other two goals for Columbus came on a penalty shot and a late-game breakaway, with Nedeljkovic obviously getting left alone for both. Sure, he got beat on both and could have made a save, something he was quick to admit postgame, but those aren’t saves you can necessarily rely on your goaltender to make on a consistent basis.

“I’ve gotta find a way to make a save,” Nedeljkovic said. “They got a fortunate bounce on the first one, and then two breakaways that just, they beat me clean. I didn’t get much of a chance on either of them. I’ve got to find a way to make one of them, if not both of them and try to find a way to bail the guys out there.”

Nedeljkovic wasn’t perfect Monday, but he made some big saves and came up big in a few moments. He also showed off some good movement and athleticism at times.

The Canes will hope that they won’t have to rely on Nedeljkovic for too long, with Mrazek’s timeline undisclosed, but the reality of the situation is that he’s likely going to have the longest NHL stretch of his career in the coming weeks. Monday night’s effort was a good building block for Nedeljkovic moving forward, despite the loss.

Second game struggles

The Hurricanes have now played 10 games against six different teams this season. In Carolina’s first meeting against a team so far, the Canes are a perfect 6-0-0. However, the second game hasn’t gone as well for the Hurricanes, as they are now just 1-3-0 in those second meetings following Monday’s loss.

In those game ones (including lone game wins over Nashville and Tampa Bay), the Hurricanes are outscoring their opponents 21-11. In the second meeting, Carolina is getting outscored 16-11.

The sample size is very small, but it’s a trend the Canes won’t want to continue in a schedule made up almost entirely of two-game miniseries against the same opponent. For now it’s not something you look at as a glaring issue, but it’s certainly something to keep an eye on.