The Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning played through regulation and all five minutes of overtime to a draw on Tuesday night, but the Canes prevailed in the skills competition and won the game in a shootout, 2-1.
Sergei Samsonov started the shootout off with a goal on Carolina's all important first attempt and after Jussi Jokinen was stopped, Tuomo Ruutu finished things up with the clincher on the third shot for the Canes. Cam Ward stopped both Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier so a third shooter was not necessary for Tampa Bay.
The Hurricanes took their first lead of the season in the opening period when Joni Pitkanen found Jussi Jokinen breaking open near center ice during a Carolina powerplay. Jokinen beat goalie Mike Smith just barely under his pads on a goal that needed to be reviewed. The Finn has now scored two goals against his former team, the same organization that placed him on waivers last season.
Pitkanen earned his first assist of the year in his very first game and made several nice passing plays. The team looked better breaking out of their own end while he was on the ice. Unfortunately for the Canes, he stiffened up while sitting in the penalty box for four minutes in the second period and never came out for the third. His status is day to day. The defenseman was called for interference on a close play and then was handed an unsportsmanlike on his way to the box.
The Lightning tied the score in the second period during a two man advantage. Ryan Malone knocked in a high rebound, a goal which also needed to be reviewed. His stick was under the crossbar though and the goal counted.
The third period was conservatively played, as neither team wanted to make a mistake that would lead to the possible game-winner. Tampa Bay had six shots on goal while Carolina could only muster five. The Canes are happy with the two points though and will try to build on them. It was not a perfect game, but it was the best one to date and the intensity level was closer to what they were hoping for.
The mood in the locker room was positive. A couple of the players noted that Tampa Bay was much improved from a year ago.
There was an excellent crowd for a Tuesday night. The announced attendance was over 16,000.
Cam Ward was the number one star of the game and had an excellent night between the pipes. He stacked his pads to stop Stamkos on one open chance, stopped a couple of other point blank shots, and looked solid and confident during the shootout. The goalie also picked up a secondary assist on the Jokinen goal and joked after the game that he is one of the team's leading scorers.
Matt Cullen had the best game he's had so far this season. He generated many chances, played solid defense, and had more jump and purpose than he had in previous games. Hopefully, he can keep it up.
The defensemen as a group played a very physical game. Tim Gleason had eight hits, Alberts had seven, Corvo had four, and Wallin had three. Tuomo Ruutu led the forwards with five. The team had a total of 42 hits compared to 25 for the Lightning.
The Hurricanes won 53% of total faceoffs. Matt Cullen led the way with 64%. (7 of 11).
Next up for Carolina is another home game against Florida on Friday night. Will they make it two wins in a row?