If you looked at the final score, it would seem like the Carolina Hurricanes started out this season much like they ended last, but the Tampa Bay Lightning turned a close game into a rout in the third period and defeated the Canes, 5-1 in front of an announced crowd of 18,680 at the RBC.
Before the game, coach Paul Maurice indicated that they did not want to give the powerful Lightning powerplay unit many chances, but the home team committed some bad penalties and the visitors took full advantage of their opportunities.
The good news is that the Hurricanes came out in the first period with a lot of energy and took a 1-0 lead when Jeff Skinner knocked in his own rebound at 8:07 into the game. Skinner created the play when he stole the puck at the blueline, skated it in the Tampa Bay zone, and drew a penalty on his move to the net. During the delay, he would score before the extra skater had a chance to get to the ice.
The team got close to scoring several other times in the period, but Dwayne Roloson did a steady job in the net for the Bolts. The Canes outshot the Lightining, 16-12 in that stanza.
Martin St. Louis tied the game up five minutes and change into the second when Steven Stamkos corralled a loose puck, (which a couple of Canes just missed) and sent it St. Louis who was open at the side of the net.
The Canes would then make a crucial mistake before the end of the period. First, rookie Justin Faulk, who was playing in his first ever NHL game, took an interference call at 17:31. Jussi Jokinen then backhanded the puck toward the ref, who called the Finn for unsportsmanlike conduct, giving the Bolts a full two minutes of a 5-on-3.
The Lightning did not need the full two minutes as Vincent Lecavalier put in a shot just 19 seconds later.
The two teams battled in the third period separated by just one goal until the Lightning pulled away by scoring three times in the last 7:38.
After the game, coach Paul Maurice said that he thought the team played well, up until the last seven minutes. He also admitted that the penalties cost them.
The team travels to Washington right after the game to prepare for the Capitals home opener on Saturday night.
- In all, the Canes took six penalties and the Bolts scored twice with the advantage, (2-6). The Canes went 0-5 when they were on the powerplay. Faulk took two penalties, Bryan Allen was called twice, Jokinen had his call, and Eric Staal skated into Roloson for a goalie interference call.
- After a great start, it turned out to be a tough night for Maurice's new first line of Staal, Skinner, and Tuomo Ruutu. They were on the ice for three goals against and finished -2 for the game.
- The fourth line of Zac Dalpe, Anthony Stewart, and Tim Brent also generated a few chances in the first, but other than Brent, who was killing penalties, they didn't see much ice time in the second. Dalpe had 4:23 after two periods and Stewart had 4:52. They did get more time later in the game though as Dalpe finished the game with 10:38 and Stewart had 9:32.
- The Canes were 46% in the faceoff circle. Staal was 27%, Sutter 71%, Jokinen 42%, and Brent was 56%.
- The team finished with 33 shots on goal and were led by Staal and Jokinen with five each.
- They were also credited with 23 hits, led by Chad LaRose with four.
- The announced crowd was 18,680, but as Damien Cox would say, (although not as politely) there were some empty seats. Regardless, it will go into the books as an opening night sellout.
- It had to be a frustrating night for the Captain, who not only had a horrible time in the circle but his goalie interference penalty was a costly one and his man would score when he was beaten down the ice twice in the third as the Bolts piled on.
- Joni Pitkanen led the way with 24:18 of ice time while both Tim Gleason and Tomas Kaberle would top 20 minutes.
Post game interviews follow: