The Columbus Blue Jackets’ longest win streak in franchise history came to a crashing end against the league’s worst team.
Now they face a team they’ve dominated in the Carolina Hurricanes, who are right on their heels in the Metropolitan Division.
The visiting Blue Jackets have won seven straight matchups with the Hurricanes heading into Monday night’s third of 2013-14.
Columbus (26-21-4) saw its eight-game win streak end Saturday with a 5-2 home loss to Buffalo. The Blue Jackets had gone 7 for 22 on the power play over their previous five games but went 0 for 4 and allowed two short-handed goals against the Sabres.
"It is disappointing," center Derek MacKenzie said. "You win eight, you want to keep winning."
Now the Blue Jackets can make it eight straight against the Hurricanes (23-19-9), whose last win in the series came Dec. 15, 2005.
Columbus won 4-3 at Carolina on Dec. 23, rallying for two goals in the last 4:02. Sergei Bobrovsky made 36 saves for his second shutout, 3-0 over the Hurricanes on Jan. 10.
These teams are separated by one point in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Carolina has won three straight and nine of 12.
"They’ve stolen some points from us, they’ve all been tight games," said coach Kirk Muller about facing Columbus.
Muller didn’t have Eric Staal available in the last meeting due to a lower-body injury. Staal has a five-game run in which he has seven points – one shy of Alexander Semin’s total in the same span.
The Hurricanes have totaled 14 goals in their win streak, and had an unlikely hero Saturday in a 6-3 home victory over Ottawa. Former Blue Jackets forward Manny Malhotra ended an eight-game pointless drought with two goals and an assist.
"We’re expecting a lot out of each other and out of each line," Malhotra said. "It’s nice when we can contribute like that and give Skinny (Jeff Skinner), Staaly and Sems the night off."
Skinner leads the team with 22 goals, but has just one over his last seven games. He scored twice in the first meeting against Columbus with Semin adding a goal and an assist.
The Blue Jackets didn’t have an injured Bobrovsky for that matchup. He improved to 5-1-0 with a 1.67 goals-against average in six career starts against the Hurricanes earlier this month.
The reigning Vezina Trophy winner wasn’t at his best Saturday, allowing three goals on 10 shots before giving way to Curtis McElhinney. Bobrovsky had posted a 1.80 GAA in winning his previous nine starts.
"We’re so used to seeing him play at such a high level and he really has for just about this whole month, the games that he’s been a part of," coach Todd Richards said. "And you don’t expect those pucks to go in."
One edge for Columbus is that it averages 30.22 hits for one of the league’s best marks while Carolina averages 22.94. The Hurricanes may feel prepared since they just took care of the Senators, who average 30.52.
"They’re a big team, they work hard, they grind you down," said Muller about the Blue Jackets. "We’ve just gotta be ready for that kind of hard game."
Carolina defenseman Andrej Sekera has six points during this three-game win streak.