It was a closely checked game which could have gone either way, but after falling behind in the second period, try as they might, the Hurricanes could not tie things up in the third. The Lightning scored an empty netter with 49 seconds left to close the game out.
The Canes scored first in this one as Eric Staal netted his 31st goal of the season during a powerplay just seven minutes into the game. But Martin St. Louis tied things up, right at the end of another man advantage for Carolina when he and Vincent Lecavalier connected on a two-on-one rush.
Later in the period, Simon Gagne would steal the puck from Joe Corvo and make a nice move on Cam Ward to give the visitors a 2-1 lead, but Erik Cole came right back, battled past Dominic Moore, and buried a backhander to tie things up right before the end of the wild first period.
Cory Stillman made a nice pass on the play, again showing patience as he held the puck while Cole created an opening for himself. Stillman now has 11 points in his 14 games since rejoining the Hurricanes.
The second period started out all Carolina as the team got great pressure on Tampa goalie Mike Smith, but they could not score. Then with just 3:32 left in the period, Erik Cole got called for goaltender interference as he was held up, then pushed into Smith while battling to the front of the net.
It was the key penalty of the game as Moore would out-battle Bryan Allen in front of Ward during the ensuing powerplay and knock in what turned out to be the game winning goal.
Paul Maurice "didn't like" the call. Cory Stillman said he had to watch what he said about it.
The Canes put 13 shots on net in the third period, but could not solve Smith, who was solid, but not necessarily spectacular down the stretch. Give the Lightning some credit because they battled hard in this game, much harder than the previous night on their home ice.
Guy Boucher agreed. "The reality is we didn't work last night," said the Tampa Bay coach. "We decided today that we were going to work, and that's how we played all year long."
The game got a bit chippy at times as Brandon Sutter mixed it up with Eric Brewer late, then Moore and Jeff Skinner got involved with just five seconds left.
Maybe the Lightning forgot that they have to play here one more time, even if it might turn out to be a meaningless game. Some of Canes might not forget tonight.
Carolina is now five points behind Buffalo. The Sabres refuse to lose and took out the Devils, 2-0.
Quick Stats and Thoughts:
- The Canes outshout the Bolts 35-32. Staal, Cole, and LaRose led the way with four each.
- Jamie McBain looked pretty good his first night back from injury. He played 19:09 and led the team with four blocked shots.
- Derek Joslin, (-1) had his first minus game since playing for Carolina. He played 18:24 in this one.
- The powerplay finished 1-of-3. The penalty kill was 1-of-2.
- LaRose and Cole had four hits each. The team was credited with a total of 25.
- These two teams were sick of each other after just two nights. Ruutu took an elbow to the head from Thompson, who was just called for interference. (The Finn had to go to the dressingroom for a couple minutes to get checked out.) As mentioned earlier, Brewer and Sutter dropped the gloves, then with just five seconds left, Moore and Skinner got tangled up. Cory Stillman skated over and helped out the 18-year-old.
- This was a gut-wrenching loss for the fans, if not for the team. Tampa Bay had been reeling and came out harder for this one, but once again the Hurricanes could not take advantage of a backup goalie with a less than average save percentage, (.884).
- The Canes hit the ice for practice Sunday morning at 11.