Hurricanes blow game late in 4-3 loss to Blue Jackets

calexander@newsobserver.comDecember 23, 2013 

— It won’t be a very restful Christmas break for the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Canes had the lead and appeared to be closing in on a victory Monday over the Columbus Blue Jackets, only to have it all fall apart on them. Quickly.

Ryan Johansen and Jack Skille scored for Columbus in the final five minutes, lifting the Blue Jackets to a 4-3 victory in the increasingly intense Metropolitan Division game at PNC Arena.

While the Blue Jackets celebrated on the ice, the Canes headed to their locker room in disbelief after the sudden turnaround.

“That’s a real stunner right there,” Canes coach Kirk Muller said. “You’re four or five minutes away from walking away and picking up two huge points.

“I guess we’ve got to swallow it and hurt for a few days. It’s terrible timing, but we’ll have to come back charged up and pick up some of these points we lost out on.”

The Canes (14-15-8) went 0-2-1 in their final three games before the Christmas break, gaining their only point in an overtime loss Saturday against Tampa Bay. The other loss also came on home ice to the Washington Capitals on Dec. 20.

Jeff Skinner had a pair of power-play goals for the Canes and Alexander Semin scored his first goal in almost two months. But a turnover by Carolina led to Johansen’s goal with about four minutes left in regulation, and Muller said the Jackets caught the Canes on a bad line change as Skille beat goalie Justin Peters and ripped in the winner with 2 minutes, 34 seconds left.

“I feel like we shot ourselves in the foot,” Canes captain Eric Staal said. “It’s unfortunate. You get the lead in the third period, you’ve got to shut the door.”

After Semin’s goal gave the Canes a 3-2 lead with about 11 minutes left, the Canes had a power play with fewer than seven minutes remaining. But the Blue Jackets (16-17-4) killed off the Skille penalty, then rallied.

“We’ve got to be better than that down the stretch,” Skinner said. “It’s a tough way to lose one. We generated a lot of opportunities but couldn’t hold on to the lead.”

Skinner’s power-play goal late in the first period tied the score 1-all after Artem Anisimov had given the Blue Jackets the lead. Corey Tropp’s first goal of the season, on a rebound, pushed Columbus ahead 2-1 in the second, but Skinner scored again – on a 5-on-3 power play – for his 14th of the season and a 2-all tie.

The Canes killed off four straight penalties in the second period and Peters, coming off a 47-save game against the Lightning, again was steady in net. In the third, Semin, who missed 12 games this season with a concussion, scored his first since the Oct. 24 game at Minnesota.

Jordan Staal, who had two assists, set up Semin for a one-timer in the slot. Canes fans were roaring.

But the Canes’ errors resulted in odd-man rushes for the Blue Jackets, who have dealt with a slew of injuries.

“We’re not a team that’s going to sit back, that’s not our game” Skinner said. “At the same time we’ve got to make smart plays.”

Mike McKenna, making his third start of the season for Columbus, had 30 saves in picking up his first win. McKenna, who has spent much of his career in the American Hockey League, had a number of high-quality stops.

The Canes next will play Friday against the Pittsburgh Penguins at PNC Arena.

“It’s not going to be fun to sit there and think about it,” Eric Staal said. “You can’t lose points in your own building when you’re up by one with 10 minutes left.

“It’s frustrating. Guys aren’t happy about it. It’s unacceptable. We’ve got to be better when we come back.”

Alexander: 919-829-8945; Twitter: @ice_chip

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