The Carolina Hurricanes prevailed over the Tampa Bay Lightning, 6-4 on Saturday night, in an up and down, back and forth, exciting game in front of 18,680 at the RBC Center.
The Hurricanes special teams, which have had their issues this season, came through big time in this contest as the club scored four powerplay goals -- as well as one shorthanded -- and were able to kill off five powerplay chances for the Bolts. (One of the powerplay tallies was on a empty net with just seven seconds left in the game.)
Tampa Bay jumped out to a lead just 1:44 into the game as Steven Stamkos had too much room skating into the Carolina zone.
But Chad LaRose tied things up at 4:44 when Joe Corvo hit him with a pass as number 59 jumped out of the penalty box. LaRose beat Dwayne Roloson with a backhander on the nice breakaway move.
Believe it or not, it was the first powerplay marker for LaRose in his NHL career.
Jeff Skinner gave the home team a lead when he knocked in an Ian White rebound at 17:23 of the first, but Tampa would tie the score with just 22 seconds left as Martin St. Louis found Vincent Lecavalier all alone in front.
The Lightning would re-take the lead when Stamkos found Simon Gagne all alone in front of Cam Ward just 1:02 into the second period, and Gagne made no mistake.
But with the score 3-2, Eric Staal stepped up his game and was absolutely dominating at times.
The Canes evened things up when Staal powered a shot on goal from the point during a powerplay and Jamie McBain hammered in the rebound.
The Canes then had a 5-on-3 opportunity and performed a picture perfect play as Skinner ran the equivalent of a "give and go." The rookie passed the puck to Sergei Samsonov on the wing, then skated to the front of the net. Jussi Jokinen then circled in behind Skinner in the slot area and Samsonov found him. Jokinen made a nice shot and gave his club a lead, 4-3.
The Lightning then had another chance with a man advantage of their own, but Staal stole the puck near center ice and skated in for a shorthanded breakaway attempt. He missed his initial shot but Erik Cole got the long rebound and fed it back to the captain, who slid his next attempt through Roloson's legs for the two goal lead.
Gagne would score again midway through the third period to make the score 5-4, but the Canes held on the rest of the way and then put the game away on the empty-netter by Jokinen with seven clicks left.
Quick Stats and Thoughts:
- With Staal's three points tonight, he passed Rod Brind`Amour and now is the all-time Hurricanes scoring leader, since the franchise moved to Carolina. As Paul Maurice said after the game, the amazing thing is that he is still young and is still learning the game. This year, he's trying to find a balance of playing better defense, while still keeping his scoring up.
- The Hurricanes are now 14-0-0 when leading after two periods. They are one of the hottest teams in the NHL right now and have a 7-1-2 record over the past 10 games.
- The Lightning out-shot the Canes 34-31. Staal and Jokinen had a team leading five shots each.
- Once again the Canes out-hit their opponents, this time almost doubling up the Bolts 40-22. Erik Cole had nine hits while Tuomo Ruutu had six.
- Ruutu kept his point streak alive (five games), as he picked up an assist on the Skinner goal. Ian White shot the puck and it hit Ruutu before bouncing out to Skinner, who knew what to do with it once it found his stick. Skinner also has a five game streak.
Tim Gleason had a game high six blocked shots. Joe Corvo had three takeaways.
- The team won 56% of their faceoffs. Brandon Sutter won 65% and Staal finished at 57%.
- The win puts the Hurricanes just one point behind Atlanta for eighth place. They are also just seven points behind Tampa Bay and the division lead. Don't think for a minute that the team has given up on that yet, because they have not.
- Next up is a back-to-back, home and home matchup with the Bruins, starting in Boston at 1 on Monday afternoon.
- The Canes will have a limited practice late Sunday morning at the RBC and then will leave for Boston early in the afternoon.