For the first five games of the season, the Carolina Hurricanes knew nothing but winning and good times.
Now, the Canes must deal with their first loss.
The Columbus Blue Jackets, looking to jumpstart their season, rolled into PNC Arena, put in 60 minutes of hustle and hard work Saturday and left with a 3-2 victory over the Canes.
The Hurricanes’ 5-0 start was the best in franchise history while the Blue Jackets had lost three of their first four games. But Columbus was the better team Saturday.
“We weren’t ready,” Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “We didn’t mentally prepare properly, I think, as a group for that kind of game and we got what we deserved, in my opinion.
“They played a great road game. They grinded us down and we didn’t want to get to our game enough.”
Pierre-Luc Dubois gave the Blue Jackets a 3-2 lead at 1:15 of the third period. After a turnover by the Canes’ Brock McGinn near the Columbus blue line, Dubois first beat McGinn down the ice and then goalie James Reimer for the score.
Erik Haula and Dougie Hamilton had goals for the Canes, continuing their early season scoring tears. It was 1-1 after the first period and 2-2 after two as defenseman Markus Nutivaara and forward Oliver Bjorkstrand scored for Columbus.
Blue Jackets goalie Joonas Korpisalo, starting in back-to-back games, got the job done in the third for a team that has gone through a makeover since last season. Korpisalo had 30 saves, 11 in the final period.
The Canes rallied for comeback victories in their first three games, tying the score in the third period each time and then winning in a shootout (Montreal) or overtime (Washington, Tampa Bay). But the Blue Jackets stymied the Canes by aggressively forechecking and cycling, winning chases to the puck and being stingy in the neutral zone.
“They were playing our game essentially, giving us no room and frustrating us,” Canes captain Jordan Staal said. “Partly it was our own doing. We made it harder on ourselves than we needed to with our decisions with the puck, and made it easier for them.
“When you’re a little bit tired you start making mental mistakes more than anything. I think our decisions with the puck and trying to be cute with the puck ... it just wasn’t a game like that and made it harder for us to get some momentum and get the fans in it.”
Brind’Amour said the only real positive from the game might have been the play of Reimer, who had 32 stops.
“They worked hard and they earned it,” Reimer said. “They were a little better than us. We played hard and we battled but sometimes it does not go your way.”
Brind’Amour was hoping for a repeat of Friday’s game, a decisive 5-2 victory over the New York Islanders. The Canes were the faster, more aggressive team, completely shutting down the Islanders in the third period.
But the Blue Jackets, coming off a 2-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Friday, were active, disruptive, preventing the Canes from getting a transition game going.
For the first two periods, it was punch, counter-punch.
In the first, Nutivaara’s first goal of the season -- the defenseman all alone on the backdoor for a tap-in-- gave the Blue Jackets a 1-0 lead. That lasted 27 seconds.
The Canes’ passing was at its best in a quick-strike sequence, the puck going from Hamilton to Martin Necas to Ryan Dzingel and finally to Haula, who was unchecked in the slot. Haula’s goal was his fifth in six games and it was tied 1-1.
In the second, it was the Canes’ turn to take the lead and lose it. In 17 seconds.
After Korpisalo lost his paddle, Hamilton unloaded a shot off a Jaccob Slavin pass that Korpisalo had no chance of stopping. It was Hamilton’s fourth of the season.
But Bjorkstrand had the answer for the Blue Jackets, carrying the puck around the net and wheeling into the slot, turning and whipping a shot that Reimer couldn’t track or stop.
“We were just lazy a little bit on our guy and you can’t do that and we got burned,” Brind’Amour said. “That’s kind how the game went for me. We just were flat.”
There was a scary moment involving the Canes’ Haydn Fleury in the first period. The defenseman fell head-first into the boards after being hooked by the Blue Jackets’ Alexandre Texier in the Carolina zone. Fleury was helped off the ice and to the locker room but soon returned.
The Canes announced before the game that defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk had been activated off non-roster injured reserve. Van Riemsdyk underwent shoulder surgery after being injured in the Stanley Cup playoffs last spring.
After the game, the Canes reassigned forward Julien Gauthier to the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL. The Canes leave Monday on a West Coast road trip and will play the next four games away from home.