Tampa Bay Lightning 5, Carolina Hurricanes 0: "Fragile" Canes Fall to Lightning For Fourth Time

USA TODAY Sports

With just over three weeks remaining in the season, time is running out for the Canes to turn things around. Their 10th loss in the last 11 games Thursday night dug the hole deeper, as the Lightning skated off with an easy 5-0 win.

Fragile.

That's the word that Kirk Muller used six times to describe his team in the postgame press conference.

And for a team battling for a playoff spot, that fragility is unraveling what started as a promising season.

The Carolina Hurricanes fell to 0-4 this season against the Tampa Bay Lightning with a 5-0 shutout at the hands of newly-acquired Ben Bishop in front of 17,042 at PNC Arena on Thursday night.

"We looked a little more fragile than normal, but we did have quality chances and we came out hard," said Muller, "and it would have been nice to capitalize on it."

With plenty on the line, both teams started the game with reckless abandon in the offensive zone. The Canes caught a break halfway through the period when Vinny Lecavalier hit the far post on a 2-on-1, then with 37 seconds left in the period the Lightning dodged a bullet when Alexander Semin blatantly kicked the puck into the net trying to finish off a 2-on-1 with Eric Staal.

Neither team could (legally) find the back of the net in the first period, with the Canes holding a 16-9 shot advantage.

On their first shot of the second period, though, the Lightning continued a worrying trend of the Canes' opponents scoring early in a period. Teddy Purcell put the visitors up 1-0 at :28 with an easy rebound cleanup off Dan Ellis' left pad. It was the fourth straight game in which the Canes had given up a goal in the first two minutes of the second period.

From there, Bishop took over. The big goaltender, acquired at the trade deadline on Wednesday from the Ottawa Senators, stopped 24 shots through the first half of the game, including killing off a 5-on-3 Carolina power play and denying Jeff Skinner on a 2-on-1 with an arm save that looked easy for the tallest (6'7") goalie in the NHL.

Tom Pyatt's eighth goal doubled the Lightning's lead at 15:55, tipping home a pass from Alexander Killorn past Ellis, who made 25 saves on the night. It went to 3-0 at 19:17 on Keith Aulie's second goal of the season, both of which have come against Carolina, which made it through a ton of traffic in front of Ellis.

And, yet again, the Canes left the ice in the second period completely shell-shocked.

The third period started auspiciously for the Canes, with a golden rebound chance for Jay Harrison that was alertly kicked out by Bishop. Then, predictably, Martin St. Louis made it 4-0 at 2:24 as Harrison totally lost track of his man and gave St. Louis all day to one-time home a pass from Benoit Pouliot.

Pouliot then added one of his own at 7:30 to make it 5-0 after Tim Gleason bowled over Ellis and both left Pouliot unchecked and Ellis scrambling back to the crease. Despite piling 45 shots on Bishop, the Canes' highest total all season, they were unable to beat him and the Lightning moved to 4-0 against the Hurricanes this season.

Ellis, to his credit one of the only players in the locker room when the media entered, shouldered the blame. "Honestly, I think we’re playing good hockey," he said. "I need to make a save. The first goal was a crappy rebound that changed the momentum of the game."

"You need your goalie to go in there and steal a game for you, especially at a time like this. I didn’t do that tonight."

Muller defended his goaltender, though. "We didn’t score, so it’s hard to win. Truthfully, a lot of guys are giving all they’ve got."

"We have practice tomorrow, and we have to find a way to stay resilient and keep on slugging it out and find a way to get different results."

Coming on the heels of general manager Jim Rutherford calling his team "not a good product" on Wednesday, it wasn't exactly the type of optimistic view that leads anyone to believe the Canes will be playing hockey after the end of April.

Game Notes:

  • According to Joedy McCreary of the Associated Press, since taking a 2-0 lead into the locker room after one period in the game against Washington on March 14, the Canes have been outscored 41-15 in 10+ games.
  • Thursday's game was the first time since moving to North Carolina the Hurricanes have taken 45 or more shots in a game in which they were shut out. Late in the 1996-97 season, the Hartford Whalers were shut out 4-0 by the Avalanche while taking 46 shots.
  • The outcome, predictable as it was given how the teams were playing, was all but determined at the second intermission. Tampa Bay moved to 10-2 when holding the lead after two periods, and Carolina fell to 2-11-1 when trailing after two.
  • An 0-for-3 performance on the power play saw the Canes fall to 29th in the league on the man advantage at home, having scored only eight power play goals at PNC Arena all season. Overall, the team is 25th on the power play at 13.5%, which if the season ended today would be the team's worst performance on the power play since 2003-04 when they converted at 10.6% efficiency.
  • Click for postgame audio from Dan Ellis, Jamie McBain and Kirk Muller.
  • The Canes return to practice at noon Friday at PNC Arena.
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