RALEIGH — Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour didn’t recall what he said during an animated second-period timeout in Carolina’s 4-1 loss Saturday to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
He and his team would probably like to forget the whole thing.
“I don’t really remember what I was saying because I was pretty much just losing my mind,” Brind’Amour said of his animated midgame rant on the Carolina bench. “Really, it just came down to we played a really good team, knew it was a good team and they won all the puck battles. They were first to everything. They played like a first-place team and we didn’t have the desperation that we needed to, and that’s what was frustrating.”
Cam Atkinson, who had three career goals in 22 games against the Hurricanes, doubled that in just over 31 minutes, opening the scoring in the first period and adding two more in the second to lead the Blue Jackets in front of 13,040 at PNC Arena.
“Nothing really needed to be said, but Roddy said it perfectly,” Hurricanes captain Justin Williams said. “We were just a second off here or there, and because we were a second off we lost every single battle that was important and spent a lot of time in our zone.
“It was dud. Just call it what it was,” Williams continued. “It was a dud and unacceptable and, as I said, the good news is can come back tomorrow and rectify this.”
“Tomorrow” isn’t practice, but rather a 5 p.m. game against the visiting New Jersey Devils, another Metropolitan Division opponent who is caught in the crowded mediocrity of the Eastern Conference.
The Blue Jackets, however, have started to gain some separation and rise to the top.
Columbus scored first when its top line cycled in the Carolina end and Artemi Panarin found Atkinson alone in the slot for a one-timer that beat Scott Darling (20 saves) and made it 1-0 at 11:54 of the first.
Then Atkinson got his second two minutes into the middle frame, collecting a bouncing puck and sliding the puck into an open net for a 2-0 lead.
Sebastian Aho gave Carolina life with a backhand wraparound goal past Sergei Bobrovsky (30 saves) at 6:05 of the second, but Columbus’ Zach Werenski beat Darling with a wrist shot from the slot 77 seconds later to restore the two-goal lead, 3-1.
Atkinson hat trick goal followed when he hammered home a shot from the right circle for a power play goal and a 4-1 lead.
Enter Brind’Amour’s timeout.
“We were playing a really good team over there. That’s probably the best team we’ve played top to bottom. There’s no weaknesses in their game. … We needed to be better to beat a team like that, that’s for sure.”
Brind’Amour called it the first time this season he felt his team didn’t give a worthwhile effort.
“I haven’t been upset all year, really, because the effort’s been there,” he said. “So you can be upset about things not working or not getting the breaks or this and that, but we, for the most part, all year haven’t had to get upset because we’re doing everything we needed to do.
“Tonight was not that way, so that’s why I was not too happy.”
He said changes made to the lines — most notably, Andrei Svechnikov moving up to play with Williams and Jordan Staal in the third period — may or may not stick for tomorrow’s game against the Devils.
“There’s two ways to look at it,” Brind’Amour said. “One way is that’s really, like I said, the first game that I’ve not been happy with everything. Do you just give it a pass or do you say OK and shuffle the deck? I don’t know, we’ll think about it.”
Regardless of how they line up, Aho said the Hurricanes need to be better.
“It’s all in our heads,” he said. “We players have to do it individually, and I’m sure we’ll be ready tomorrow.”
Notes: Atkinson had four points and Panarin three for the Blue Jackets. … Every Hurricanes player finished with a shot on goal, and the team outshot Columbus 31-24. … Carolina was 0-for-3 on the power play and allowed one goal on five penalty kill opportunities. … Staal, one of the league’s top faceoff men, won just four of 14 draws. Columbus’ Brandon Dubinsky also had a tough night at the dot, losing 15 of 17. … Jaccob Slavin was minus-1 and is now minus-11 on the season — tied for third-worst in the NHL.