Heading into Sunday’s game in Raleigh, the Tampa Bay Lightning looked to sweep back-to-back games this weekend, as another two points were crucial to improving their playoff position. In fact, the number 2 seemed to be a theme for this contest against the Carolina Hurricanes. Ben Bishop only gave up two goals, Ryan Callahan scored two goals of his own, Cedric Paquette had two assists and a plus-2 rating for the night, and when it was all said and done, the Lightning found themselves in second place in the Atlantic Division thanks to a 4-2 win over the Hurricanes.
The Lightning got off to a slow start in the first period, as they were lackluster in the offensive zone early on, and a holding call against Nikita Nesterov certainly did not help. About halfway through the period, John-Michael Liles attempted to clear the puck, and sailed it over the glass for a delay of game penalty. Before the penalty ended, the Lightning gave up a shorthanded goal for the third straight game, as Jordan Staal set up Joakim Nordstrom, putting the Hurricanes up 1-0. Tampa Bay had a few late flurries on net and Ondrej Palat showed that he can hit as well as he can shoot, as he had a good shot on net that was saved by Canes goalie Cam Ward, which was then followed by a big hit on Liles. The period ended with the Lighting trailing by one and the shots tied 6-6.
The Hurricanes had some issues with penalties in the second period, but the Lightning were unable to take advantage of their power play chances. Andrej Sustr took a shot from the point that was saved by Ward, but JT Brown scooped up the rebound tying the game 1-1. Andrej Nestrasil had the first penalty of the period for the Hurricanes by holding the stick of Alex Killorn, yet the Lightning were unable to pounce on the opportunity. After the Hurricanes successfully killed the penalty, Callahan blasted a shot from the right circle, beating Ward to the short side and giving the Lightning a 2-1 lead. Kris Versteeg of the Hurricanes took another penalty later in the period. Tampa Bay’s best chance on the ensuing power play came when Callahan stole the puck and fed it to Steven Stamkos, who was all alone in front of Ward, but was unable to convert. Michal Jordan tied the game up 2-2 at the 12:59 mark of the second period for Carolina when he tallied on a wraparound after Bishop and the Lightning skaters were caught out of position. Bishop saw a lot of action towards the end of the period, but was able to stand tall as the teams remained tied going into the intermission.
The action was back and forth as the Lightning and the Hurricanes appeared to be very evenly matched through much of the third. The Hurricanes began to pull away in both shots on goal and scoring chances, as they owned a 21-14 edge in shots at one point. Braydon Coburn was called for hooking and appeared to put the Lightning in a tough position until Jordan Staal got his stick blade between the visor and face of Victor Hedman, ending Carolina’s power play and leading to 4-on-4 hockey for 27 seconds. When the Lightning then went on the power play following that brief 4-on-4 stint, it looked as though the Bolts were going to come up empty with the man-advantage. But with four seconds left on the power play, Stamkos came off the bench, took a pass from Tyler Johnson, and fired a shot past Ward for the eventual game-winner with 5:43 remaining in the third, giving the Bolts a 3-2 lead. The Hurricanes pulled Ward in the dying minutes of regulation and had a few great shots on Bishop, who came up huge in preserving the lead. Callahan scored an empty net goal, his second of the night, and that was all she wrote for this game.
The Lightning will return to action Tuesday night when they host the Arizona Coyotes at 7:30 pm.
THREE STARS OF THE GAME
3rd Star: Steven Stamkos – Scored the game-winning goal and picked up an assist.
2nd Star: Cedric Paquette – Paquette seemed to do everything right tonight. He was a physical presence on the ice, had two assists, and finished with a plus-2 rating. All in all, it was a great game for Paquette.
1st Star: Ben Bishop – Bishop stopped 29 of 31 shots, standing tall when the Lightning needed him to the most. His save on Jeff Skinner late in the third period helped preserve the victory. Follow Stephen on Twitter
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