After the emotional win Tuesday night, it was a fair question to ask what the Jackets had in the tank for their fellow cellar dwellers from Carolina for the second game of the week.
Lineup wise, the team gained their Captain back from illness, and lost Jared Boll, sitting the first game of his suspension, while Rene Bourque and David Clarkson were the healthy scratches in the press box.
Sergei Bobrovsky got the start for the Jackets, while Eddie Lack took the pipes for Carolina.
After a slow start for both teams, the Jackets seemed to find their legs first, and used them to put pretty much everything but the kitchen sink on net, though Lack was up to the task, turning aside 16 shots during the frame. The Jackets would have one (obviously unsuccessful) power play after Noah Hanifin was called for a high stick on Scott Hartnell, but otherwise this was a fairly sleepy period despite the volume of rubber being chucked around.
Things heated up pretty quickly in the second, spurred on by a big hit on Brad Malone by Foligno. Malone, who delivered a very borderline hit to Foligno last time these two teams met, was clearly on Nick's agenda tonight, and responded by droping the gloves for a fight that can be best described as "Nasty, brutish, and short." - #71 had Malone down and out within moments,and both men would sit for fighting majors.
The Canes had some better pressure on Bob this period, but he continued to turn away their attempts, while the Jackets continued to take any opportunities they could to shoot on Lack, including a pair of near-miss breakaways by Brandon Saad before things boiled over again.
This time, Brandon Dubinsky and Elias Lindholm would mix it up, leading to 4 on 4 hockey, followed by another power play opportunity for the Jackets when Carolina was called for too many men. Unfortunately, Carolina would end up having the best scoring chance coming out of that, a 2 on 1 rush that Bob was able to shut down, but things turned around in favor of the Jackets late in the period when Matt Calvert got his stick on a Dalton Prout shot from the point, redirecting it past Lack.
There was a pretty lengthy review, as Carolina argued that Calvert had interfered with Lack's ability to play the puck, but the ruling on the ice was upheld, and the Jackets had finally broken the seal.
About a minute later, things once again got chippy when Lindholm decided to try picking on Cam Atkinson, and very quickly learned it's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog. (Not to mention the fight in the dog's teammates, as about half the bench seemed to rush in to protect the Littlest Jacket.) Oddly, despite Lindholm pretty clearly being the guy who put a nasty hit on Cam and dropped his gloves first, somehow Cam got the double minor for roughing and instigating, so Carolina would take a man advantage through the end of the second and into the third.
Spoiler alert: This is where the wheels came off.
After killing the final seconds of the Carolina power play, the Jackets seemed to relax slightly, and unfortunately it cost them.
Victor Rask lead the Hurricanes into the Jackets' zone on a counterattack following the penalty's end, and managed to put a beautiful shot through Ryan Murray's legs and past Bob's glove to tie the game, putting some life into the Hurricanes bench.
This should have been a bit of a wakeup call, but unfortunately the the Jackets' defense hit the snooze button, and were rewarded with Chris Terry putting Carolina ahead, finishing a textbook breakaway while Cody Goloubef slid helplessly into the board and Fedor Tyutin fell hoplessly behind the play.
Adding insult to injury, the Canes would score again on their next shift, with Jordan Staal winning the faceoff in the Columbus zone and firing the puck on net, where Lindholm was able to redirect it into the net.
Unsurprisingly, Tortorella looked like he wanted to hold a frank exchange of views with the entire bench after that one, while Bob looked visibly frustrated with his performance, though I don't really think there was much he could have done on the Rask goal in particular.
To their credit, the Jackets kept trying to bang the door down, and Boone Jenner put the Jackets within one after cleaning up the rebound from a Bjorkstrand shot, but couldn't find the tying goal tonight despite some beautiful attempts - and several frustrating pings off the iron.
Final Score: Hurricanes 3 - Blue Jackets 2
All in all, this wasn't a bad effort by the Jackets. Yes, the third period brainfart was painful, but the team as a whole responded the way they needed to, and they did a lot more things right tonight than they did wrong. With luck, that's a sign that Torts is getting the team where it needs to be, and that the players are really taking the way he wants them to play on board.
If there's such a thing as a good loss, this ought to qualify. Strong overall effort, good performances from the young guys, and a willingness to shoot. It's their second game in a row with 40+ SOG, and a lot of them were good shots that made Eddie Lack work for the save - the only problem being that tonight, Lack was generally up for the challenge.
We also have to note that this loss has mathematically eliminated the Jackets from playoff contention - something we knew was coming, but it's still a bit sad to write. Time to give the kids some room to play, think about the draft, and see how the team comes along in these final games.
Next up, a trip down to Nashville. Say, didn't we make a pretty big trade with them a few months ago...?