RALEIGH, N.C. – Nine times the Carolina Hurricanes went on the power play, and nine times the Columbus Blue Jackets turned them aside.
The playoff-hopeful Hurricanes even had four opportunities with a two-man advantage, but fell short in a 3-2 loss to the Blue Jackets on Saturday night.
To make matters even worse, Columbus scored a short-handed goal to further frustrate the Hurricanes’ struggling power-play unit.
“It was a wild one,” Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel said.
Steve Mason made 29 saves, Derek MacKenzie scored twice and Samuel Pahlsson added a goal for Columbus, which snapped a seven-game losing streak (0-4-3).
“It’s great. You really forget how it feels to win after seven losses in a row,” Mason said.
Jeff Skinner and Tuomo Ruutu had goals, and Cam Ward made 25 saves in a losing effort as Carolina dropped its fourth straight—damaging its playoff hopes. The Hurricanes, ninth in the Eastern Conference, remained two points below the post-season cutoff.
“It’s not Game 80,” Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. “There’s still time on the clock. We feel the urgency, so everyone understands exactly where we’re at.”
Columbus began the night in 12th place in the Western Conference, 10 points and four spots below eighth-place Calgary.
The Blue Jackets came in ranked 23rd in the NHL in penalty killing, but they shut down Carolina’s power play—also ranked 23rd.
“The penalty kills, especially the 5-on-3s, our guys did a great job of getting in shot lanes,” Arniel said. “We had a pretty good idea of what they like to do, but at the end of the day, your best penalty killer is your goaltender, and Mason certainly stood tall for us.”
Columbus took a 1-0 lead when Pahlsson cleaned up Derek Dorsett’s rebound for a short-handed goal 4:44 into the game.
The Blue Jackets doubled their advantage early in the second when MacKenzie ripped a slap shot while skating in from the wing. Ward couldn’t come up with the glove save 42 seconds into the period.
The Hurricanes spent much of the later part of the period on the power play, but they couldn’t sneak the puck past Mason.
The longest of Carolina’s 5-on-3 power plays lasted 1:13 of the second period. The other two were 37 and 22 seconds. The Hurricanes also pulled Ward for an extra skater while on the power play in the waning seconds.
Carolina has scored on only three of its last 61 power plays and hasn’t netted more than two goals in six games.
“Now’s not the time of year to be frustrated and snap at each other because that’s going to go nowhere,” Carolina captain Eric Staal said.
Skinner took a saucer pass from Erik Cole and sped past the Blue Jackets’ defence before beating Mason to the glove side 9:16 into the third period to bring Carolina within 2-1.
Carolina’s Jussi Jokinen missed an open net in the closing minutes before MacKenzie scored an empty-net insurance goal with 1:01 remaining.
Ruutu then one-timed a shot through Mason’s legs with 33.6 seconds left to make it a one-goal game again, but Columbus hung on for the win.
“It’s a big monkey off our back,” MacKenzie said.
Notes: Carolina D Jamie McBain missed the game because of an undisclosed upper body injury sustained Friday at Washington. Columbus is 18-2-1 when leading after two periods. The last time Carolina went at least four games without winning was Nov. 23-30, 2009.