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Hurricanes in search of finishing touch vs. Blue Jackets

Dec 22, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Carolina Hurricanes center Jordan Staal (11) celebrates with the Carolina bench after scoring a goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period at PPG Paints Arena. Carolina won 4-3 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

If the Carolina Hurricanes learned one thing from Thursday night’s 5-3 loss on home ice, it was to take advantage of the opportunities that are generated.

After netting just three of a franchise-record 67 shots on goal in a loss to the Nashville Predators, the Hurricanes will try to find the net more often on the road Saturday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

One reason for Carolina’s optimism: They won’t be facing Nashville goaltender Juuse Saros.

The matchup between the Hurricanes and Blue Jackets will be the second between the teams after Carolina earned a 4-1 home victory in the season opener for both teams. The Metropolitan Division foes wrap up their three-game season series Thursday back in Columbus.

The NHL’s hottest team since just before Thanksgiving, Carolina now will lug around the weight of frustration when it meets the last-place Blue Jackets, who own the Eastern Conference-low 24 points through 37 games.

Through three periods Thursday, Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour watched his high-flying club increase its shot total each frame, from 18, 21 and finally 28. But only Paul Stastny, Brady Skjei and Jordan Staal managed to beat Saros, whose 64 saves were a club record and matched the third most in NHL history.

“We played a good game. I’m not going to put any negative on this,” Brind’Amour said. “You put up (67) shots, you’ve got to win the game. What you’ve got to do is give credit where credit is due. (Saros) played as good a game in the net as you’re ever going to see. That’s the story.”

In addition to watching Saros set a club record, Carolina had 21 shots blocked and another 17 go errant.

After setting franchise-records with a 17-game point streak, which started Nov. 25 in an overtime loss at Boston, as well as an 11-game winning streak, Carolina is winless its last two games.

“It’s two in a row,” Staal said. “We have to find a way to get on the right side of it.”

Following offseason Achilles tendon surgery, Max Pacioretty made his Hurricanes debut playing left wing on the fourth line and had six shots in 16 minutes of ice time. Stefan Noesen (lower body) missed his second game of the season.

On its home ice Thursday, facing the Washington Capitals, Columbus managed to forge a 2-2 tie in the second period on Gavin Bayreuther’s first goal in 57 games. But the Capitals scored the final four goals, including two on power plays in the third period with the second on Alex Ovechkin’s 29th tally as Washington earned a 6-2 victory.

The defeat added on to the Blue Jackets’ miserable campaign. They are 1-9-0 in their past 10 contests, which includes a spell of six straight setbacks before the holiday break.

“They definitely pushed in the (four-goal) second,” said Columbus left winger Johnny Gaudreau, who broke a nine-game skid without a goal. “We got caught out there a little long one too many times. We turned the puck over a few times and they capitalized.”

Injured against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday, left winger Eric Robinson (upper body) did not play.

On Thursday, the league announced that Gaudreau was one of its first 32 players selected to the 2023 NHL All-Star Weekend, which takes place on Feb. 3-4 at Sunrise, Fla. Carolina left winger Andrei Svechnikov, 22, was chosen and will make his first All-Star appearance.

–Field Level Media