TAMPA, Fla. — It looked like the Carolina Hurricanes were going to be sentenced to a night of frustration with a sequence of dumb penalties at the worst times, and not even the inevitable Martin Necas goal could prevent what seemed to be inevitable.
Instead, Brady Skjei rescued the Hurricanes from the abyss, scoring a shorthanded goal on a 3-on-2 rush with 6:26 remaining in regulation and salvaging a point for the Hurricanes, who earned the bonus point in the shootout by topping the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 on Thursday night.
Seth Jarvis opened the scoring for the Hurricanes 8:29 into the first, wiring a laser over Andrei Vasilevskiy’s shoulder just as a power play expired. The Hurricanes took that lead into the second, but Jalen Chatfield’s double penalties, one for tripping and one for high sticking, proved costly when Ross Colton tipped home a Mikhail Sergachev shot to put the Lightning on the board at 5:50.
After Nick Paul scored to give the Lightning the lead, Necas’ torrid streak continued, pulling the Hurricanes back to even on a power play at 14:01 of the second, one-timing a Brent Burns pass to extend his team lead with his 14th point of the season.
The Hurricanes had a golden opportunity midway through the third, with Corey Perry in the box for tripping, but twice they couldn’t find the net despite good puck movement. Jesper Fast, possibly the Canes’ best player on the evening, had four grade-A chances and didn't score on any of them.
Brett Pesce took a necessary tripping penalty with Vladimir Namestnikov driving the net with five minutes left, but instead of surrendering the seemingly inevitable insurance goal, Skjei turned the game on its ear, finishing an odd-man shorthanded rush that beat Vasilevskiy cleanly.
It wasn’t the number of penalties that nearly torpedoed the Hurricanes’ chances to win — indeed, they played penalty-free hockey for the entire first period, and only took Pesce’s necessary one in the third — but it was all about the type and timing. Chatfield had a game to forget, taking three minor penalties in the second period alone, and Jordan Martinook was baited into a needless slashing penalty that was initially ruled a major but reduced to a minor on review.
The latter of those was the costliest, as it handed the Lightning a full two minutes of a two-man advantage and Nikita Kucherov duly did the honors, scoring what was looking likely to be the game winner with a minute remaining in the second period.
Frederik Andersen never seemed to get comfortable in the net, relying on his defense to bail him out more than the Canes would have liked. The Lightning’s second goal, a Paul redirection of a Steven Stamkos half-wall shot that was really a pass, went through Andersen’s legs way too easily. At other times, the iron did the job for Andersen, none more significant than Colton’s chance with 13 minutes remaining that beat Andersen but went clean off the crossbar.
Jordan Staal somehow missed a wide open net with three minutes remaining, shooting into the side of the net as Vasilevskiy desperately scrambled to get back into position and lost control of his stick in the service of making the save.
Brayden Point, who had been on the ice for nearly two full minutes to start overtime, took a lazy slashing penalty to put the Hurricanes on a 4-on-3 power play. Despite putting six shots on net during the man advantage, the Hurricanes were too lackadaisical up a man, not forcing Vasilevskiy into any difficult saves.
In the skills competition, Colton and Teuvo Teravainen traded goals in the fourth round, and Sebastian Aho ended the festivities with a sixth-round goal to snap the Lightning’s five-game winning streak and give the Hurricanes their second straight shootout win.
Vasilevskiy faced 55 Carolina shots, making 52 saves to finish two saves shy of his career high in a regular season game, while the Lightning returned 26 on Andersen. The Hurricanes will return home to face the Buffalo Sabres at PNC Arena tomorrow night to begin a brief two-game homestand.