A six-game home point streak to start the season came to an end for the Carolina Hurricanes Monday night in PNC Arena, as the Canes fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 in a game where Carolina never seemed to find its footing.
The Canes came out of the gate sloppy and looking off, and couldn’t overcome the mistakes despite a strong effort to claw back into the game. Jesper Fast scored both Carolina goals off of rebounds, his first two tallies for the team.
For the Lightning, Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman and Ondrej Palat found the net, with Palat scoring the game-winner in the third period. Alex Killorn added an empty netter in the final minute.
James Reimer took the loss in net for the Canes, though his performance certainly wasn’t to blame for the defeat. He stopped 28 of 31 shots faced, keeping the Hurricanes afloat in a particularly ugly first period. Andrei Vasilevskiy was in net for the Lightning, stopping 33 of 35 Carolina shots faced.
In Carolina’s 4-0 win over the Lightning Saturday night, the Canes played their most complete game of the season, controlling things from start to finish. The same certainly could not be said early on Monday night, as the Canes came out of the gate playing pretty poorly.
Tampa Bay dominated the game’s first 10 minutes, out-shooting Carolina 11-1 early while boasting a CF% over 90 midway through the opening period. Reimer was exceptional, scrambling to make a couple fantastic saves as Carolina killed off two penalties.
Some very normal things happening in the Hurricanes crease. pic.twitter.com/dSus5gUQiD— Brett Finger (@brettfinger) February 23, 2021
Things seemed to flip a bit for the Hurricanes following the second penalty kill, as Carolina became a little cleaner and more engaged. The Canes opened up the scoring in the seconds after a power play came to an end, as Fast netted his first goal with the team.
Jake Bean made a stellar, heads-up play to set things up, keeping the puck in the zone as Steven Stamkos was exiting the box to virtually extend the Canes 5-on-4 time for a few seconds. Bean made a crisp pass to Necas, who fired into Vasilevskiy’s pads. Fast was there to clean things up, converting off the rebound.
JESPER FAST'S FIRST HURRICANES GOAL— Canes Country (@CanesCountry) February 23, 2021
Martin Necas threw the puck on net, and Fast was there to clean up the rebound and give the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead over the Lightning. pic.twitter.com/IHypOPTGlp
Fast’s opening tally was the only one of the first period, as Carolina entered the first intermission with a 1-0 lead despite a period of hockey that mostly did not go its way.
Tampa Bay went on the power play again early in the second period, as Sebastian Aho went to the box for hooking, and this time the Lightning took advantage. Stamkos got the puck and blasted one between Reimer’s blocker and body, tying things at 1-1.
It was Tampa Bay’s first goal of the season against the Canes, as Carolina went 143 minutes and 38 seconds on the ice with the defending Stanley Cup champs without conceding a goal.
The Lightning made it 2-1 later in the middle frame, as Hedman rifled home a snipe from the circle at even strength.
The Hurricanes tied things up on the power play late in the second period, as Nino Niederreiter made a great play to draw a penalty on Hedman. With the Canes up a man, Fast scored his second of the night, again off a rebound.
Dougie Hamilton made a great pass across the ice to Brett Pesce, who fired a wrister on Vasilevskiy. The rebound was a big one, and Fast was perfectly positioned to make it a 2-2 game.
Well, that was Fast.— Canes Country (@CanesCountry) February 23, 2021
Jesper Fast shovels home the rebound for his 2nd goal of the night and his 2nd as a Hurricane to tie the game at 2-2 in the second period. pic.twitter.com/VuaQDE4H0s
The Lightning regained the lead eight minutes into the final period, as Palat took advantage of some unsightly mistakes from Canes’ defenseman Brady Skjei. The sequence started with a bad turnover by Skjei, and it ended with Palat winning a battle with Skjei in front of net and sending the goal in off his skate.
Carolina got some good chances down the stretch, including some clean looks on a long possession with its own net empty, but couldn’t find a tying goal. Killorn sealed the Tampa Bay victory with an empty netter.
The Hurricanes and Lightning will continue their stretch of four consecutive games Wednesday night in Tampa, Carolina’s first trip to the Sunshine State this season.