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Blue Jackets 5, Canes 4 (preseason)

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RALEIGH -- The Carolina Hurricanes' first preseason game had some interesting twists and turns in it.

The Columbus Blue Jackets led after the first period and the Canes after the second, but the Jackets surged in the third for a 5-4 victory at PNC Arena.

"I think for the first game I was expecting a little more bite to our game," Canes coach Kirk Muller said. "When I say playing hard, it's not just physically finishing checks. I thought we had a group tonight that we could have been tougher to play against."

Alexander Semin scored twice and Eric Staal and Jeremy Welsh each had a goal for the Canes, who built a 4-2 lead in the second period. Marian Gaborik had a pair of goals and an assist for the Blue Jackets, who were playing their fourth preseason game.

The game was the first between the Canes and Blue Jackets as new rivals in the Metropolitan Division. Hybrid icing calls were made. Another first: a delay-of-game penalty against Semin for having his jersey tucked in -- a new rule and a no-no in the league beginning this year.

The Blue Jackets didn't convert Semin's penalty into a power-play score, but Gaborik's quick wrister just after the penalty expired tied the score 4-4 early in the third. Sean Collins' goal then gave Columbus a 5-4 lead.

Cam Ward was in net for Carolina and Elias Lindholm, the Canes' first-round draft pick, played his first NHL game. Ward labored at times and Lindholm, who centered a line with Jeff Skinner and Nathan Gerbe, didn't factor into any of the scoring.

"I thought the game was his best performance, compared to the practices," Muller said of Lindholm. "He's smart, he's good in traffic, makes little plays. He definitely understands the game, both with the puck and without."

Semin had a power-play goal in the first period and even-strength score in the second, both on whistling shots from the right circle. Welsh's score came on a top-shelf backhander and Staal on a rebound, both in the second period and both after sustained offensive pressure in the Columbus zone.

The Canes scored their first goal of the preseason -- a power-play score by Semin -- to take an early lead and outshot Columbus 15-7 in the opening period but trailed 2-1. Semin came off the half-wall and rifled a shot past Curtis McElhinney.

The Blue Jackets answered in just 31 seconds against the Canes' fourth line. Boone Jenner took a pass from Tim Erixon and ripped a shot past Cam Ward for a 1-1 tie.

The Blue Jackets struck late in the first period when Gaborik went top-shelf on Ward. Ryan Johansen had a power-play goal for the Blue Jackets in the second period after Carolina had built a 4-2 lead.

Ward was making his first appearance in NHL competition since suffering a serious knee injury March 3 at Florida, an injury that ended his season.

McElhinney started in net for Columbus but was relieved by Mike McKenna in the second period, allowing four goals on 22 shots. The Canes had a 26-15 lead in shots after two periods.

The Canes looked sharp in killing off an Eric Staal tripping penalty late in the first, but the Jackets took the lead on Gaborik's goal.

The Canes were inches away from taking a 1-0 lead in the opening minutes. Murphy got off a shot from the point and Drayson Bowman got his stick on the puck, which skidded just wide of the post.

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A new contender for dumbest penalty ever emerges.

Apparently it's been on the books for about 50 years, but seriously NHL, 2:00 for your sweater riding up over a hip pad? That has to be even dumber than the trapezoid and the puck over glass delay of game penalties. It's a close race, but this one wins it.

Can't wait to hear Tripp Tracy defend it because "it's a black and white rule". Actually... check that. Yes, I can.

Amen

A little individuality in a harmless way should be good for the sport rather than hurt it. Hockey needs its stars and sometimes they are a bit flamboyant. Not hurting anything. Dumb rule.

The Good and Some Areas Needing Attention

The good:

Eric Staal and Semin were outstanding again. It's amazing how they are locked in virtually every time they are on the ice.

Some of the young guys played especially well overall: Skinner, Lindholm, Bowman, Bellemore, Welsh come to mind. Skinner is faster and more explosive.

Some Areas of Concern:

Despite the messaging, the effort at practice, the words of Jim Rutherford, the Hurricanes were not noticeably fiesty and on balance were not the aggressor team. For players on the bubble, both Muller and Rutherford have been crystal clear. If those guys don't step up their game, they are going to face waivers (those players who are waiver eligible) and will be sent down to Charlotte if they clear waivers.

It's completely understandable that Cam Ward was rusty because he's missed so many games over the past two years, but given his very slow start last season, it's a matter of some reasonable concern as to how long it will take Ward to get into his rhythm.

Dalpe, Bowman, Welsh, Boychuk, and Nash are at crossroads in their careers. Welsh and Bowman had solid games last night. All of these players have the talent to succeed; but they have to become more noticeable on a consistent basis. In other words, they have to step up and seize the moment or the Hurricanes will likely go another route.

A summary:

Overall, it's a preseason game. Nothing more and nothing less. The Hurricanes organization is working to establish a culture of winning. There is only one way to do that and that's to win games whether it's preseason, regular season, or playoffs. There's plenty to like about the first game; but also much room for improvement.

My take away from last night

Murphy is going to be physically abused all season long. His lack of upper body strength was quite apparent, especially on one of the goals when he was trying to move Dubinsky out from in front of Cam. Let's see a bit more from him before making a final evaluation, but if this pattern continues it might be better sending him to Charlotte.
Just like losing Tuomo last season was costly to the overall depth of forwards, losing Joni might just have the same effect.

I’ve enjoyed your

I’ve enjoyed your perspective for some time, not completely Pollyannaish but you see the positives. Unfortunately I think this team could really disappoint if it doesn’t get quality NHL goal tending each minute of each game….This team is a w-i-p especially on D, Cam just can’t play this way anymore.

Same old Cam

We'll always thank Cam for his huge role getting the Cup in '06, but it's time for the Canes to look at Cam for what he is....extremely inconsistent. Inconsistent goal tending just kills a teams confidence & execution...we've been seeing this from Cam for 6+ years...While it's only 1 preseason game, from Cam we've seen all of this before.

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About the blogger

A Raleigh native, Chip has worked at the N&O since 1979 and is the Canes beat writer. He can be reached at chip.alexander@newsobserver.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @ice_chip.
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