In the second half of a back-to-back, Tampa Bay Lightning backup goaltender Curtis McElhinney got the start in goal, making his debut in a Bolts uniform. After falling one goal short on Saturday night against the Florida Panthers in Sunrise, the Lightning looked to get back on track against Carolina on Sunday.
From the start of the game, McElhinney was faced with immense pressure and had to come through with crucial saves to keep the Lightning in the game. After allowing a goal on the game’s first shot, McElhinney settled in and played an outstanding game between the pipes.
Tampa Bay recorded 11 shots on goal in the opening period and took a 3-1 lead into the first intermission. Not much went right for the team after that.
In what ultimately turned into a 4-3 loss in overtime, the Lightning registered only two shots on goal after the first period.
Carolina opens scoring early, offense quickly answers
It only took 1 minute and 14 seconds for the Hurricanes to open the scoring against McElhinney, the new Lightning backup netminder making his Bolts debut. Brett Pesce fired from the point and the puck ricocheted off the skate of Tampa Bay forward Luke Witkowski and into the back of the net for a 1-0 Carolina lead.
The Lightning returned fire very quickly, however. Just 1:08 later, Tyler Johnson fired a slap shot past Petr Mrazek to tie the game 1-1.
Tampa Bay got their first power play opportunity of the game at 9:53 of the first period. Kevin Shattenkirk fired a slap shot past Mrazek off the faceoff to put the Bolts up 2-1. Then, with 2:16 to go in the period, Steven Stamkos came off the bench to keep possession in the offensive zone and converted a wrister to increase the lead to two.
McElhinney continued to stand tall in net and weathered unrelenting pressure during the first period.
Offense turns cold in the second, McElhinney continues shouldering the load
The second period began with back-and-forth momentum swings. Both teams created odd man rushes and pressure in the offensive zones for the first few minutes. The Hurricanes broke through on the power play with a little over seven minutes to go in the period.
With Victor Hedman in the penalty box for hooking, Erik Haula netted a goal to cut the Lightning lead to 3-2. The pressure from Carolina did not let up as McElhinney continued to be tested.
Haula’s goal was the only one for either team scored in the second, but the bigger story of the period came from Tampa Bay. For only the fourth time in franchise history, the Lightning were held without a shot in a period. Carolina outshout the Bolts 16-0 in the second and relied on their goaltender to keep them ahead.
Bolts fail to find answers in the third
The third period began the same way the second period ended. The Lightning faced pressure in the defensive zone essentially from start to finish. McElhinney once again was faced with an onslaught of shots on goal. He continued to bail the team out of sloppy defensive play and the inability to generate an effective offense.
Clinging to a 3-2 lead, Tampa Bay was unable to rectify their lackluster effort and hold on to that lead. With 7:12 to go in the game, Dougie Hamilton tied things up 3-3 with a power play goal as Braydon Coburn was serving a hooking minor.
With the game on the verge of overtime, Shattenkirk was called for interference with 45 seconds to go in regulation. The third period ended and 1:16 of power play time was carried into overtime.
In total, the Lightning were only able to muster up 2 shots on goal in the third period.
Jaccob Slavin ruins McElhinney’s outstanding debut with OT winner
Despite being shorthanded, Tampa Bay killed off the Shattenkirk penalty. When the teams returned to 3-on-3 hockey, the Lightning sent out their top OT trio: Nikita Kucherov, Stamkos, and Hedman.
The game mercifully came to an end for the Bolts on their first shift. Jordan Staal broke free on a 2-on-1 opportunity with Slavin. Slavin one-timed a pass into an open net to the left of McElhinney to complete the comeback.
The Lightning failed to record a shot in overtime, and for the game were outshot 44-13. That includes a stretch of 27-2 in the second and third periods, as well as overtime.
Not lost in the final score was the play of McElhinney. He ended his Lightning debut with a 40-save performance on 44 shots. As a result, the Bolts were able to earn a point in the standings. This will be looked at as a victory in itself given that the game could have gotten out of hand quickly if not for McElhinney.
Tampa Bay will look for answers with three days off. The Lightning will face the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night in Toronto.
Our Three Stars of the Game
1st Star: Curtis McElhinney – Kept the Lightning in a game that had the potential to be a blowout. Made 40 saves on 44 shots.
2nd Star: Dougie Hamilton – Finished with one goal and one assist. Scored in the third period to tie the game 3-3.
3rd Star: Jaccob Slavin – Scored the game-winning goal in overtime.
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