That didn’t end up working out for them.
Some very inconsistent play in front of a near-sellout crowd led to a tough loss for the Hurricanes, who lost their second consecutive game and are now .500 through four games of their season-long homestand.
To put it lightly, the Hurricanes were slow out of the gate.
The first shot of the game came 2:36 into the opening frame. Off of a reload after a 2-on-1 rush, Carter Verhaeghe whipped a pass across the seam and right to a streaking and unmarked Mitchell Stephens. Stephens deposited the puck into the Canes goal from the backdoor and gave the Lightning a 1-0 lead.
Carolina continued to struggle in the minutes immediately following that first goal, and a very bad break ended up going against them just under five minutes in.
Dougie Hamilton attempted to skate a puck out from behind his net after what appeared to be a clear icing on the Bolts, but the puck was stolen from him after what appeared to be a blatant hooking penalty on a Bolts player. Then, naturally, the puck wound up on the stick of Steven Stamkos, who rifled a shot by Mrazek from point-blank range to make it a 2-0 game.
From there, the Hurricanes started playing closer to their style of hockey and ended up getting a number of chances from Erik Haula’s forward line at 5-on-5. A Mikhail Sergachev slashing penalty with just over four minutes to go in the first period gifted the Canes with an opportunity to cut the lead in half before the intermission.
Unfortunately for Carolina, they had a number of opportunities, including a stuff attempt from Nino Niederreiter, but Andrei Vasilevskiy was excellent and kept the Canes at bay as the power play and the period came to pass.
Misfortune continued for Mrazek and his Canes in the second period.
After a solid five minutes of excellent pressure and plenty of close calls in the offensive zone, one push from the Bolts led to their third goal.
Brayden Point snuck away from Jordan Staal, and after a failed clearing attempt around the boards, Point was fed the puck in the dead slot. With Staal two steps behind him, he roofed a shot by Mrazek and, again, killed any momentum that Carolina had built.
Just a few minutes later, Mrazek was tested again. A long shift in their own left the Canes worn out. A turnover gifted the Lightning with a shooting gallery of chances. The Hurricanes finally cleared the zone after five or six saves over the course of just five seconds from Mrazek.
The Lightning did not let up, and instead got better and better as the second period wore on. Tampa ended up putting a staggering 17 shots on net in the middle frame. Mrazek was the lone reason why only one goal was allowed. Carolina got outworked and out-executed from start to finish, and they needed their last line of defense to keep the game somewhat salvageable.
Through 40 minutes, the Hurricanes trailed by a three-spot.
The Lightning deployed a very conservative strategy in the third period, and despite a valiant comeback attempt from Carolina late in the third period, they were able to close things out.
The lone blemish on Vasilevskiy’s record, though, was a goal from Andrei Svechnikov in the latter stages of the third period. Jaccob Slavin drove the puck up the right wing and into the Tampa zone before dishing a gorgeous backhand pass right to the tape of an open Svechnikov, who netted his 18th goal of the season and gave his team some life.
A late four-minute power play led to a lot of chances, but many missed shots and good saves rendered their man advantage fruitless in the goals department and the game ended at a score of 3-1.
With the loss, the Hurricanes fell to 24-16-2 on the season and 2-2-0 through four games of their seven-game homestand. The Lightning, who have had a big resurgence after a slow start, picked up their second win in as many nights and improved to 24-13-4 on the year.
The three-game season series between the two clubs ends with the Canes winning two of three.
Mrazek tried his best to keep things close, and did for the most part as he stopped 23 of 26 shots. Svechnikov scored the lone Carolina goal, giving him 18 on the season.
Carolina will continue their homestand on Tuesday when they welcome the Philadelphia Flyers to PNC Arena for a crucial Metropolitan Division matchup.