After a slow start, Carolina woke up mid-way through the first period and took over the hockey game last night in Tampa. The Lightning came out with major jump, controlled play in the Hurricanes zone, and took the lead just five minutes into the game on a rebound chance by Ryan Craig.
About a minute and a half later, Vaclav Prospal tipped in a Vincent Lecavalier shot and the Bolts looked like they might skate the Canes right out of the rink.
The Carolina coaching staff flipped the right switch though and the Canes bounced back in a big way. Once they got their legs under them, the Hurricanes started to fire pucks on goal and crash the net. They picked up two consecutive goals using this strategy.
During the team's first powerplay of the night, a Rod Brind'Amour shot deflected off Justin Williams for the Canes first goal. Just about a minute later, Dennis Seidenberg rifled a shot that hit Chad LaRose and the puck got past goalie Mike Smith. The Hurricanes put on an amazing display of passing before the goal, almost teasing the Lightning during the sequence.
About six minutes into the second period, Joni Pitkanen fired a shot from the blueline which seemed to have eyes. The rocket hit the inside of the post and bounced in net. The defenseman had a monster game and was all over the ice. He finished the affair with a goal and an assist, had a +2, led the team with over 24 minutes of TOI, and was named the first star of the game.
The Canes held on to the slim margin for the rest of the game. But unlike the St. Louis win, they still seemed to have control. Cam Ward was not pressured nearly as much as he was early on, as the Lightning could only muster a total of nine shots on goal during the final two periods.
The victory gives the Canes three straight wins and ties their longest winning streak this season. They have also won 7 of their last 10.
The coaching staff deserves credit for getting the team back on track about mid-way through the first period. One thing coach Maurice changed was to move Justin Williams on the Brind'Amour/Whitney line and put Scott Walker with Matt Cullen and Chad LaRose. The Walker/Cullen/LaRose line had a great game and they were rewarded with extra ice time. Williams and Brind'Amour have always had good chemistry and that line should improve as well.
Justin Williams had two points and had one of his better overall games.
Speaking of ice time, LaRose had more TOI than Brind'Amour did as he racked up 17 minutes. The little sparkplug had an excellent game and never stopped skating all night.
Brind'Amour had another costly turnover which led directly to a goal, but was able to erase the "minus" later in the contest.
Anton Babchuk had over 20 minutes of TOI, continued looking for offense. and seems more and more confident each game. He was tied with Pitkanen for the most shots on goal for the Canes at four each. That's right, two defensemen led the team in shots on goal.
Dennis Seidenberg was paired with Pitkanen and also had an excellent game. He chipped in with a couple of shots as well.
According to the official scorer, Tim Gleason led the Canes with four hits. Apparently, Chad LaRose, Tuomo Ruutu, and Scott Walker only had two each. Evgeny Artyukhin was credited with eight.
One Babchuk shot which did not make it to the goal was deflected into Bolts defenseman Andrej Meszaros' face. The ex-Senator had to leave the game. Fortunately, the puck hit the mouth/jaw area and not an eye.
Next up for the Canes is New Jersey at home on Tuesday night.