RALEIGH, N.C. – The season sweep of Columbus was denied when the Carolina Hurricanes hosted the Blue Jackets at PNC Arena on Saturday.
Having beaten the Blue Jackets in three previous games this season, and outscoring them 11-6 in the process, Carolina could only produce one goal in the two teams’ final meeting of the season.
Jeff Skinner scored the Hurricanes’ lone marker while Brandon Saad’s natural hat trick went along with singles to Boone Jenner and Oliver Bjorkstrand that gave the Blue Jackets a decisive 5-1 victory.
Goaltender Eddie Lack (22 saves) suffered the loss while Joonas Korpisalo (26 saves) earned his first-ever win against the Hurricanes.
Carolina controlled the tempo of play during much of the first period.
Skinner opened the game’s scoring at the 8:53 mark with a low wrist shot to Korpisalo’s stick side.
Carrying the puck through the neutral zone, Victor Rask passed it up to Skinner who managed to skate past Columbus defenseman Cody Goloubef along the right boards and in on the Blue Jackets net.
Defenseman Jaccob Slavin also earned an assist on Skinner’s 28th goal of the season.
Up to that point in the game, the Hurricanes had kept Korpisalo busy and outshot the Blue Jackets 7-1.
A giveaway then cost Carolina the lead when Saad intercepted Jay McClement’s intended pass to Noah Hanifin at the Columbus blue line.
From there, Saad finished his breakaway attempt with a well-placed shot over Lack’s trapper to tie the game 1-1 with 5:43 to go in the period.
It was only the second shot of the game Lack had faced up to that point.
Both teams remained tied after 20 minutes with Carolina outshooting Columbus by a 16-6 margin.
“A fairly good start,” Hurricanes alternate captain Jordan Staal said.
“We had a lot of shots. I thought our power play dropped the ball in the first period and we lost some momentum there. Second and third (periods), I’m not sure, that was not our team’s hockey. It wasn’t something to be proud of, those last two periods.”
The Blue Jackets started the second with as much jump as the Hurricanes, but with more finish.
Saad scored his second of the game at the 6:36 mark as Sonny Milano’s zone entry along the right boards and behind the Hurricanes net finished with a pass into the slot that the winger redirected past Lack.
Columbus continued to carry its momentum forward and added to its lead when Saad completed the natural hat trick on a redirect off a centering pass from Alexander Wenneberg with 1:17 remaining in the period.
Back-to-back penalties to Victor Rask and Jaccob Slavin allowed the Blue Jackets to score another goal when Jenner scored his 30th of the season with the 5-on-3 advantage just as the period ended.
The Blue Jackets carried a 4-1 lead into the second intermission after outshooting the Hurricanes 13-2 during the period.
“Obviously, the second period is not what we wanted,” Skinner said.
“We stopped movin’ our feet. Tough to make plays when you’re standin’ still; they took advantage and were able to create some offensive chances for themselves.”
While Carolina tried valiantly to pull closer during the final 20 minutes of play, Korpisalo and the Columbus defense denied each attempt.
Bjorkstrand then scored his third of the season on a wrist shot from the right circle at 9:21 and extended the Blue Jackets lead to four.
It was the last goal scored of what had become too much of an overwhelming deficit to overcome for the Hurricanes.
After fighting to earn points in the NHL standings in 12 of 14 games, the loss resulted in Carolina’s official elimination from further playoff contention.
“It got away from us for sure,” Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters said.
“It was 1-1 after 20 (minutes), and we thought it was gonna continue to go that way without puttin’ in that same amount of work as we did in the first 20. They took advantage of some turnovers and we never got goin’ again.”