By Peter Koutroumpis
RALEIGH, N.C. – The Carolina Hurricanes couldn’t complete the comeback and came up short, losing 2-1 in overtime to the Columbus Blue Jackets at PNC Arena on Tuesday.
Columbus forward Sonny Milano tallied both goals for the Blue Jackets while Jeff Skinner picked up his first of the season for Carolina.
It was a different night and atmosphere throughout the rink compared to Carolina’s season and home-opening night that ended in an exhilarating 5-4 shootout win for the Hurricanes over Minnesota.
Be it that it was an early-week contest, and maybe many were still hungover from the weekend’s triumph, but this match-up had a different feel to it.
Much of it was played conservatively at both ends.
No real excitement – at least not until the third period.
Or more accurately, not as much from the offensive side of things.
“It was that type of game that could have gone either way,” captain Jordan Staal said.
“I thought there was times we dictated and there was times they dictated in our zone,” Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters added.
“Kind of back and forth a little bit there. I thought it was pretty even throughout.”
Each team presented structured forechecking and defensive play that ultimately placed the focus on Hurricanes netminder Scott Darling and Columbus keeper and reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky.
One of them would end up determining which team would win this one.
In the end Darling finished the game with 25 saves while Bobrovsky earned the win with a 37-save performance – seven of which came in overtime.
“It was two high-skilled, fast-paced teams and that’s the type of game we expected it to be,” Darling said.
“It was a different type of game (than Saturday) – more shots tonight, but less end zone action – a little less tiring. It’s easy to stay focused, that’s my job as a goalie to stay focused for 60 minutes no matter what. A couple times, I can’t let in that goal, that squeaker in regulation. Luckily Skins saved my bacon there, had a great goal and we got a point out of it.”
Both teams played to a scoreless opening period with the Blue Jackets outshooting Carolina 11-10.
The second period featured much of the same as neither sides’ power play could find an opening to end the deadlock.
Columbus pressured Darling and the Hurricanes early in the third, and with Klas Dahlbeck in the penalty box for slashing, Artemi Panarin had the chance to put the Blue Jackets ahead.
However, his one-timer hit the right post and play continued as Carolina successfully defended their third penalty kill of the night.
Columbus remained diligent and the effort paid off as Milano banked a shot off Darling’s left pad from behind the goal line and gave the Blue Jackets a 1-0 lead with 9:59 remaining in regulation.
Carolina’s best chance to even the score up to that point came when Staal got the puck in the low slot with only Bobrovsky to beat.
The Vezina winner made the point-blank save with his trapper.
Two minutes later, Bobrovsky snagged a snap shot from Tuevo Teravainen.
Time was running short for Carolina.
And then it happened.
With 1:25 on the clock, Skinner beat Bobrovsky post-to-post and tied it up 1-1, the result of picking off a high clearing attempt by defenseman Markus Hannikainen in the Columbus zone.
“It’s a learning experience for him,” Columbus head coach John Tortorella said of his young defenseman’s mistake.
“I thought he got tunnel-vision there, and he wanted to get the puck out of the end zone.”
Both teams remained tied and headed to overtime.
A hooking penalty to Panarin with 3:59 remaining in the extra period gave Carolina the opportunity it needed.
However, four successive shots were turned away by Bobrovsky as the Hurricanes’ 4-on-3 couldn’t convert, the third man-advantage opportunity and most critical of the game Carolina missed on.
As play continued at 3-on-3, following a missed Sebastian Aho shot that caromed off and around the boards out of the Hurricanes’ zone, Milano picked up the puck and streaked in unopposed and beat a sprawling Darling with a toe-drag-backhand move and shot that bulged the twine high.
It was another roller-coaster finish that at least energized the 7,892 in attendance by the end of it all as Carolina finished its two-game homestand earning three of four points.
“It could be worse,” Darling concluded.
“Obviously, you want four, but we’ll take three.”
Notables: While scoreless on the power play (0-3), the Hurricanes’ penalty kill went 3-for-3 and stands at 5-of-6 for the season – “a small sample size to look at,” according to Peters…Carolina dominated in the faceoff circle, winning 61 percent of all draws led by Derek Ryan winning 8-of-11 and Staal claiming 11-of-15…Marcus Kruger skated in his 400th career NHL game.
Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport