The Carolina Hurricanes' scoring touch has gone cold during an ill-timed skid, and their latest defeat came against a team that's below them in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Hurricanes will try to snap out of their woes and extend their road win streak over the Columbus Blue Jackets when they face another such opponent Thursday night.
Carolina (31-28-14) has scored nine goals in an 0-2-3 skid that matches its longest this season, leaving the Hurricanes seven points back of the East's final playoff spot. They looked as if they were going to cut that deficit Tuesday but collapsed late in a 3-2 defeat to Buffalo.
Joakim Nordstrom gave Carolina the lead with 6:20 remaining before the Sabres scored twice in the final four minutes. The Hurricanes' frustration showed with 22 penalty minutes - more than triple their conference-low average of 6:47 - and leading scorer Jeff Skinner got a career-high 14 from a second-period fight.
"Sometimes, there's a battle and you just play the game, and then there are times where you can't really take it," said Skinner, who hasn't scored in the last six games. "Some of the things were over the line, there's only so much you can take before you don't take it anymore."
Carolina will try to harness that anger into earning a fifth consecutive win in Columbus and improving its 7-0-2 record in the past nine overall matchups. The Hurricanes swept a home-and-home series with the Blue Jackets from Jan. 8-9 while scoring a combined eight goals.
They posted a 4-3 overtime win at Nationwide Arena in the finale on Jordan Staal's goal. Staal also had the opening goal and added an assist in a 4-1 victory in Raleigh while Elias Lindholm provided a pair of scores.
The Blue Jackets (30-35-8) have won six of nine at home, including the past two. They bounced back from a 2-1 loss in New Jersey on Sunday with a stunning 3-2 shootout victory against visiting Philadelphia two days later.
Columbus scored twice in the final 1:04 of regulation, beginning with Boone Jenner's short-handed tally. Cam Atkinson netted the tying goal with eight seconds remaining, and Jenner had the only score in the shootout.
"It's a huge win, definitely," goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky said. "Obviously guys worked hard until the very end and got rewarded for that."
Columbus' victory only delayed its inevitable elimination from the playoff race, and that could become official with a loss Thursday, depending on Philadelphia's and Detroit's results.
Of course, the Blue Jackets can keep their faint hopes alive by sending Carolina to its first six-game skid since Dec. 4-16, 2014. The Hurricanes are also 0-1-3 in their last four road contests, putting them on the verge of matching their longest losing streak there this season.
The Blue Jackets will be without forward Jared Boll after he was suspended for four games for interference against Philadelphia forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.