RALEIGH — Blue Jackets center Pierre-Luc Dubois turned a Carolina miscue into the game-winning goal just 75 seconds into the third period, handing the Hurricanes a 3-2 loss for their first defeat of the season in front of 16,224 Saturday at PNC Arena.
“It would have been nice to go to 82-0,” Hurricanes goalie James Reimer said. “That would’ve been the dream, I guess.”
Instead, Carolina saw its season-opening five-game wins streak sputter to a halt in the face of Columbus’ slow-it-down style.
“They did exactly how we thought they were going to come and play us, to a T, and we weren’t ready,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “We didn’t mentally prepare properly, as a group, for that kind of game. And we got what we deserved, in my opinion.”
The Blue Jackets capitalized on Carolina’s mistakes, none bigger than Dubois’ winner.
Hurricanes winger Brock McGinn’s weak pass at the Columbus blue line was intercepted by Blue Jackets forward Gustav Nyquist, who poked the puck ahead to Dubois. Dubois used his bigger frame to shield McGinn on a race up ice and beat Reimer with a backhand to give Columbus a 3-2 lead.
From there, the Blue Jackets locked it down by stacking up in the neutral zone, limiting Carolina’s speed and clogging passing lanes.
“When they got that lead, they were responsible with the puck and made smart decisions,” said Reimer (32 saves). “We just couldn’t quite get inside on them.”
Still, the Hurricanes weren’t ready to make excuses following their first blemish of the season.
“I thought we made it harder on ourselves than we needed to with our decisions with the puck and the way we wanted to play,” Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal said. “Made it easier for them, and that was the result.”
The first “easy” play for the Blue Jackets opened the scoring.
On a broken play in the Carolina end, Columbus defenseman Ryan Murray found fellow blueliner Markus Nutivaara all alone at the far side of the net. He tapped the puck into the vacant net at 10:17 of the first period for a 1-0 lead.
The Hurricanes quickly responded.
Defenseman Dougie Hamilton jumped into the play for a chance, then fed the puck below the goal line to Martin Necas. Necas quickly passed to Ryan Dzingel, who one-touched the puck to Erik Haula in the slot for a one-timer that beat Joonas Korpisalo to tie the game just 27 seconds after the Blue Jackets had first scored.
The Hurricanes jumped ahead when Korpisalo (30 saves), without his stick, couldn’t stop a Hamilton slap shot to make it 2-1 Carolina 2:51 into the second period.
The Blue Jackets, like the Hurricanes in the first, quickly tied the game on the next shift.
Columbus’ Oliver Bjorkstrand wheeled behind the Carolina net and beat Sebastian Aho to the slot, roofing a shot past Reimer to make things even just 17 seconds after the Hurricanes gained their only lead.
“They’re both just giveaways — they’re gimmes,” Brind’Amour said of the first two Columbus goals. “You get beat out of the corner twice, and we’re just lazy a little bit on our guy. You can’t do that. Can’t do it. So we got burned.”
The Hurricanes (5-1-0) now hit the road for a four-game road trip over the next two weeks, including three games in four days in California, starting on Tuesday in Los Angeles. The trip ends with a rematch against the Blue Jackets in two Thursdays.
Notes: Hamilton now has four goals (first among NHL defensemen) and eight points (T-1st) through six games. … Haula has scored in five of Carolina’s six games. … Both teams were 0-3 on the power play. … Defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk was activated from the injured list prior to the game. … Julien Gauthier, who played his second NHL game, was reassigned to Charlotte of the AHL following the game.