The Canes' Franken-Lineup Can't Close Out The Regular Season With A Win In Columbus

Teravainen scores twice, and several players shine in their debuts, but two goals and four points from Werenski pace a 6-3 win for the Blue Jackets.
Carolina Hurricanes v Columbus Blue Jackets
Carolina Hurricanes v Columbus Blue Jackets / Jason Mowry/GettyImages

The grind through the 82-game season came to an end on Tuesday night as the Carolina Hurricanes closed things out in Columbus. Entering on a five-game win streak after their 4-2 win in Chicago, the Canes turned to a very unorthodox lineup after the Rangers clinched the Metropolitan Division on Monday. Columbus was fighting for pride before they departed for a long offseason.

Just about half of the Hurricanes' regulars sat during the finale, including their entire top line, top defender, and starting goalie. Their absences allowed Max Comtois to make his team debut, Dylan Coghlan to make his season debut, and both Bradly Nadeau and Jackson Blake to make their NHL debuts. Spencer Martin made his first start in over a month, last occupying the net the last time the Canes were in Columbus. Jet Greaves took his fourth straight start for Columbus.

If you wanted action, this game provided it in spades. An early power play gave the Hurricanes an abundance of chances, especially for Bradly Nadeau, but it was a debuting rookie for Columbus that would get it going. Luca Del Bel Belluz buried Columbus' first shot in transition past Spencer Martin to open the scoring. Less than two minutes later, Zach Werenski bounced on a loose puck to make it 2-0 as Martin lost sight of it after it was blocked.

The Canes would get a quick one after Columbus' second goal. Max Comtois made a great pass to Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who lifted a shot over Jet Greaves to cut into the deficit. Late in the period, Kotkaniemi returned the favor by setting up Teuvo Teravainen for one to tie it up with 1:44 left. The tie lasted just 45 seconds as James Malatesta put home a rebound to regain the lead in the final minute.

The power play would strike in the second period, tying things up just past the midway point in the period. Teuvo Teravainen picked up his second goal of the night, snapping a beautiful shot off the far post and into the net. Once again, the tie would disappear awfully quickly. Johnny Gaudreau scored exactly two minutes later on a wrap-around to put Columbus back in front.

If the Hurricanes hoped to make a comeback, they'd need a good start to the third period. Alex Nylander squashed that in 47 seconds, scoring from a sharp angle after receiving the puck off the boards to make it 5-3. From there, Jet Greaves stood on his head. The kitchen sink and the neighbor's kitchen sink were thrown at Greaves, but nothing got past him. Zach Werenski iced it in the final minute, completing his four-point performance as the Blue Jackets doubled up the Canes 6-3 to finish the regular season.

I caution every sane person not to read anything into this game. With very little to play for besides seeding late in the postseason, this was the smartest thing the Hurricanes could've done. Yet, they still didn't end the night unscathed. Early in the second period, Jesper Fast took a hard spill into the boards after being pushed by Erik Gudbranson. Fast needed help getting off the ice and didn't return to the game. There wasn't much of an update on him after the game, so I'd assume his status for Game 1 is uncertain at this moment.

While this wasn't a game the Hurricanes should study going into the postseason, it was a good chance to see where some guys stood before this weekend. It was an incredibly encouraging game for Jesperi Kotkaniemi, recording a goal and an assist in the first period. His line with Stefan Noesen and Max Comtois was phenomenal. Comtois surprised me a lot. He made a serious case to be one of the first guys into the lineup if someone else goes down. Noesen's two assists helped him establish a new career high in points, finishing the season with 37. Getting Teuvo Teravainen going before the playoffs start is a good sign, too.

We also got a small glimpse into what the future could hold, with Bradly Nadeau, Jackson Blake, and Scott Morrow sharing the ice for the first time in Columbus. While the overall numbers didn't look spectacular, we got to see just how special these guys could be as early as next season. Nadeau had a handful of scoring chances on an early power play, and Blake just missed a shot from the slot during the same sequence. In the third period, we were denied the awesome moment of Nadeau or Morrow's first goal, with the puck sitting on the goal line. Great things are on the horizon for this young trio.

With 82 games in the books, the next stop is the postseason for the Carolina Hurricanes. While the date of Game 1 isn't known yet, the Hurricanes will be at PNC Arena on either Saturday or Sunday to host the New York Islanders to begin the best-of-seven series. The history between these two squads is well documented, with this marking the third meeting in the postseason during the six years under Rod Brind'Amour.

Everyone's record resets to 0-0 once things get going this weekend. While the Hurricanes remain a popular pick to win the Stanley Cup, it would be dangerous to take this experience as anything other than game-by-game. The Islanders have been playing "playoff hockey" for the better part of two months, so they'll come into the playoffs desperate to prove a point at the Canes' expense. I'm confident that this team is ready to meet the fight the Islanders will bring.