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Lightning drop exhibition opener 3-2 to Carolina

The Carolina Hurricanes beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 in the first preseason exhibition game of the 2016-17 season at Amalie Arena in Tampa Tuesday night.

All right, so it’s just an exhibition game with a roster depleted due to several Lightning players participation in the World Cup tournament, but hockey is back in Tampa Bay!

Unfortunately, there wasn’t much beyond that fact for Lightning fans to celebrate as the Lightning struggled throughout to mount much in the way of a sustained offensive threat. They found themselves in a deep hole before mounting a rally late to make the score look closer than the game really was.

The Hurricanes scored their first goal late in the first period, with Brody Sutter scoring on an assist from Warren Foegele at 19:07. They’d carry that 1-0 lead into the first intermission.

The Lightning didn’t do much to challenge starting Hurricane netminder Cam Ward, throwing nine shots at him during the first period and just seven in the second. There was a fairly furious scrum in front of the net midway through the second but Ward held fast.

At 10:26, they doubled their lead when Lucas Wallmark scored, getting help from Janne Kuokkanen.

At that point, Lightning goalie Kristers Gudlevskis who drew the start in the first preseason exhibition game was replaced by Adam Wilcox, due to the intended plan by the Lightning coaching staff to split the game duties between the two. Gudlevskis left having stopped 21 of 23 shots.

The Hurricanes scored again at 11:28 when Jeff Skinner scored on the first shot Wilcox faced. He was assisted on the play by Lee Stempniak and Brett Pesce. Wilcox would go on to stop all 14 shots he would face the rest of the night.

Heading into the third period, Carolina was up 3-0.

Ward was replaced in net by Daniel Altshuller at that point, as planned in advance by the Hurricanes. “Yeah, we’ve got a lot of potential in this locker room, especially with the prospects we have”, Ward said afterward. They showed it in the first period too, To be able to be resilient and hang on in the third period is a compliment to them. We came prepared to play and had a solid game throughout.”

The Lightning finally got on the board exactly 20 minutes after Carolina scored their third goal when Brayden Point scored with helpers coming from Tyler Johnson and Libor Hajek at 11:28. Point said later, “I think in the third period we started to skate better and started to have more offensive zone time, so I think the way we finished was something to take away.”

Things got interesting in the waning minutes when Bokondji Imama scored at 18:41 to close the gap to a single goal. Imama was assisted by Joel Vermin and Anthony Cirelli.

Wilcox was pulled for an extra skater as the Lightning tried to find a way to even the score and force overtime. Play stopped with 2.5 seconds remaining because of roughing penalties assessed to the Lightning’s J.T. Brown and Carolina’s Stempniak. The Lightning won the ensuing faceoff and sprung Mathieu Joseph on a breakaway but time expired before he could get a potentially game-tying shot off.

The Lightning’s preseason continues Thursday night when they host the Florida Panthers at 7:30 PM.

THREE STARS OF THE GAME

  1. Cam Ward, Carolina. He didn’t play an entire game and he has certainly faced stiffer challenges, but a shutout is a shutout.
  2. Jeff Skinner, Carolina. One point (a goal) and a +1, same as four other Hurricanes, but his goal was the game winner.
  3. Brayden Point, Lightning. a goal, a +1, a 57% winning percentage on faceoffs and he took the first zero of the season off the board for the Bolts.

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