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Big second period lifts Canes past Bolts at Amalie Arena

Photo Courtesy of Wayne Masut

Following a split against the Florida Panthers in their previous two games, the Tampa Bay Lightning entered a back-to-back set against the Carolina Hurricanes in desperate need of points to keep pace with both the Panthers and the Canes. Following Monday’s 3-2 overtime win over Carolina at Amalie Arena, the Bolts entered Tuesday’s rematch just one point behind the Hurricanes and Panthers for the Central Division lead.

For the first time this season, Andrei Vasilevskiy got the start in net in back-to-back contests. On Monday, Vasilevskiy posted 25 saves in that OT win over Carolina. On Tuesday night, the Lightning (30-14-2, 62 points) didn’t possess the same juice they did in Monday’s game. Meanwhile on the other side, the Canes seemed to have all the answers. Throughout the night, the Hurricanes won puck battles, were quicker on the puck, quicker to pounce on Lightning puck carriers, and displayed a sound defensive structure that stifled the Bolts throughout the evening.

Riding goals from four different players and 26 saves from Alex Nedeljkovic, the Canes (30-10-5, 65 points) prevailed 4-1 over the Lightning at Amalie Arena. Brayden Point notched the lone goal for the Lightning, reaching the 20-goal plateau for the fourth consecutive season. His tally turned out to be the lone bright spot for the Bolts just 24 hours after a stellar effort against Carolina in the same building. Combined with Florida’s win over Columbus, the Lightning now sit in third place in the Central Division, three points behind Carolina and Florida. Tampa Bay finished up the season series against Carolina with a 4-3-1 record.

A testy and feisty first period featured plenty of chances both ways

Over the first half of the opening period, the Hurricanes held a clear edge in shots, although the Lightning attempted more shots that failed to find the net. Vasilevskiy found himself in a bit of a puckhandling misadventure that led to a Grade A chance for Steve Lorentz, but the Canes’ forward was unable to finish off the play. Jordan Staal also got behind the Bolts’ defense on a breakaway, but Victor Hedman got back in time to disrupt Staal just enough to prevent a shot on goal.

Once the Lightning found their game, they began tilting the ice in their favor, creating some high-quality opportunities of their own. Alex Barre-Boulet slipped a puck into the slot for Point, but a Hurricane defender tied up Point’s stick. Point later used his blazing speed to retrieve a puck in the corner and zip a centering feed to a wide-open Ryan McDonagh. However, Nedeljkovic denied McDonagh on the redirection, keeping the game scoreless. Each team also struck iron, with Alex Killorn firing a shot off the post during a rush for Tampa Bay. A couple of minutes later, Vincent Trocheck ripped a one-timer off the rush from the left circle off the cross bar.

In addition to the evenly-matched play early on, there was a clear animosity between the Bolts and Canes. An animosity we might potentially see in the postseason. Most of the whistles in the opening 20 minutes featured some pushing, shoving, and chirping between these division foes. Clearly, there was no love lost between these two franchises. After the horn signaled the end of the period, Mikhail Sergachev took a slashing penalty during another scrum, leading to a Carolina power play. Shots were 13-11 for the Canes after 20 minutes.

Carolina opens the scoring and tensions boil over

The Hurricanes began the second period with a man-advantage, creating a couple of solid chances. Fortunately for the Lightning, Vasilevskiy held the fort, including a stellar glove save on a rocket of a shot from Dougie Hamilton. After that, Tampa Bay’s penalty killers did the rest, preventing Carolina from generating any other chances. The Lightning’s best chance of the period occurred during a rush by the fourth line, with Pat Maroon leading the way. Maroon waited for a trailing Ross Colton before delivering a pass that Colton blasted on net, only to see Nedeljkovic make the save.

From that point on, the Hurricanes rapidly shifted momentum back in their favor for the rest of the period. They were relentless with their forecheck, keeping the puck in the Tampa Bay zone for some long stretches. The Lightning’s defensive structure simply wasn’t where it needed to be, and eventually Carolina found the back of the net. Trocheck led the offensive attack and made a clean entry into the Lightning’s zone. He patiently waited before dishing it to Nino Niederreiter, who got past Killorn and was wide open in the slot. Niederreiter ripped one into the corner of the net for a 1-0 Carolina lead at the 7:48 mark. On a night with mounting tension, it finally boiled over off the ensuing faceoff.

Jordan Martinook and Barclay Goodrow dropped the gloves, with Martinook landing an early right. Despite the early setback, Goodrow rallied and emerged the victor, landing a right uppercut followed by a huge right hand directly to Martinook’s face, stunning him. Despite the loss in this scrap, Martinook would later get the last laugh.

Despite Goodrow winning the scrap, the Lightning couldn’t build off of that

The Canes needed just 24 seconds following the fight to make it 2-0. Carolina won a puck battle along the boards while Staal and Yanni Gourde fought for position in front of the net. The puck went back to Hamilton, who fired a shot that Staal deflected past Vasilevskiy for his 14th of the season.

Carolina continued to control puck possession and corralled the Lightning whenever they tried to create anything offensively. Their defensive structure was superb, preventing the Bolts from creating many high-danger chances. They boosted their lead to 3-0 when their fourth line chipped in with some offense. Erik Cernak couldn’t get the puck out and the Canes won a puck battle in the corner. Blake Coleman got caught out of position and Hedman was also unable to get over in time. Morgan Geekie served up a beautiful feed to Lorentz, who made no mistake in finishing the play off for the goal.

Tampa Bay finally got on the board 18 seconds after Lorentz’s goal thanks to Point and Ondrej Palat. Point entered the offensive zone and fed it toPalat on the wing before driving the net. Palat found Point with the return pass, and Point deflected it home, cutting the Canes’ lead to 3-1 at the 17:03 mark. Carolina out-shot the Lightning 14-7 in the period and held a 27-18 shot advantage through 40 minutes. They would eventually finish the night with a 36-27 edge in shots on goal.

The C anes shut Tampa Bay down in the third

Early in the final period, Tampa Bay created a couple of solid looks. Most notable of those was Palat’s chance coming down the wing that rang off the post. Despite the early chance to cut into the Hurricanes’ lead, the Bolts couldn’t get any closer. Carolina continued to play solid defensive hockey, and didn’t flinch when the Lightning picked up a late power play chance. The only noteworthy opportunity created by the Bolts on that man-advantage was by Barre-Boulet, who got denied by Nedeljkovic. After that missed chance, the Lightning pulled Vasilevskiy with the hope of creating some quick offense, but to no avail. Martinook notched an empty-net goal with 2.2 seconds remaining, rebounding quite nicely from getting punched in the face earlier.

The Lightning host the Columbus Blue Jackets at 7 pm at Amalie Arena.

Three Stars of the Game

1st Star: Nino Niederreiter – One goal and one assist

2nd Star: Jordan Staal – Scored the eventual game-winner in the second period

3rd Star: Brayden Point – One goal, hitting the 20-goal mark for the fourth straight season

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