For the first time in two games, the Hurricanes looked like the much better team from the jump and for the most part they were. However, goaltending was the deciding factor for the close game.
The Canes opted to shift up their lineup a little for the game with James Reimer cycling into the net, Jesper Fast being promoted to the first line and Haydn Fleury drawing in for Jake Gardiner.
Off the bat, it seemed like these decisions were paying off for Carolina as the Canes finally showed up and dominated the first period. After two dismal showings in the opening 20 the previous two games, Carolina finally seemed to have Tampa Bay on their heels.
And as such, they capitalized on that pressure with the first goal of the game.
It was a full line effort from the Canes’ top three, ending up in a great finish by offensive juggernaut Brett Pesce.
The play all started at the center-ice line where Andrei Svechnikov — who was inches away from getting the opening goal himself if not for some pesky metal — took a hit to make a pass up the ice.
Sebastian Aho took it, entered the zone and then made a subtle cut back to give himself separation from the defenders. When the space was achieved and the defender was stuck in place, Aho dropped it off to Fast streaking in.
Fast took the puck, blew past the first defender and with only one left, he laced the puck across the ice to Pesce who engaged at the perfect time and made no mistake blasting it home.
The Canes managed to keep up pressure, but some stellar goaltending from Curtis McElhinney, including a sprawling toe save on Steven Lorentz, kept the game close.
And it was some not so stellar goaltending on the other end that saw the game slip away. The first one came off of a Lightning faceoff win, where Tampa’s Mikhail Sergachev skated down the wall and shot it from an awkward angle by the goalline that slipped through Reimer’s arm.
The backbreaker came a period later, as it was Yanni Gourde who skated in with a Carolina defender keeping him to the outside. He released a shot from the top of the circle that just beat Reimer cleanly, and that was all it took.
The whole game had been a struggle for either team to really gain any sustained momentum as the officials were involved in the game heavily with a total of ten penalties called. In the opening 40 minutes alone, 14:58 of it was played at 5v4.
But neither team had any success on the power play as both penalty kills came up perfect.
Carolina couldn’t find a way to break through Curtis McElhinney and the Bolts, and an empty-net goal for Barclay Goodrow sealed the game.
The Canes will continue their road trip in Florida and will play the Panthers twice, starting Saturday at 7 p.m.