Lightning snap losing streak with statement win over Hurricanes
Published in Hockey
RALEIGH, N.C. — The last time the Lightning faced the Hurricanes at PNC Arena three weeks ago, it was one of Tampa Bay’s low points in the season. The Lightning could get nothing going offensively and returned home frustrated from a 6-0 loss that was one of their most humbling of the year.
In the days since their one-goal loss in Boston on Saturday afternoon, when they showed the physicality and fire they’ve lacked at times this season, players have talked about having a sense of urgency. And that no one step forward matters if you can’t keep plowing through to the postseason.
Playing a Carolina team that pressures the puck at every turn, that throws bodies and sticks any pass coming at them through the neutral zone, the Lightning knew they’d have very little space to operate Tuesday night in Raleigh. If they were going to go back to Tampa with points, the Lightning were going to have to grind through another game.
But the Lightning (43-26-6) did just that, playing a heavy game that netted a 4-0 win over the Metropolitan Division-leading Hurricanes (47-17-9)that snapped their four-game losing streak.
The victory also snapped the Hurricanes’ eight-game point streak against the Lightning, which was the longest active streak against Tampa Bay.
Coach Jon Cooper tested out some new line combinations, reuniting Steven Stamkos with Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov on the top line, and even sat struggling left-shot defenseman Ian Cole, a move he said was a coach’s decision.
The Lightning held their own early — much of it thanks to goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy’s prowess — but found no room to work through the middle of the ice in their offensive zone. The Lightning’s top line had no shots on goal in the first period, and four of the team’s seven first-period shots came from the fourth line.
But the Lightning took advantage in the second period — a time of the game that has doomed them of late, including their last trip here, when Carolina held them without a shot in the second and took a 4-0 lead.
The Lightning’s two second-period goals — coming on the first shots on goal of the night by Stamkos and Point — weren’t the prettiest, but they might have been the most important in getting the Lightning back on track.
On Tuesday, Stamkos scored seconds after the Lightning’s first power play expired 5:58 into the second period, taking a pass from Mikhail Sergachev below the left circle and sliding a shot under Carolina goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov’s right pad.
Point then put the Lightning up 2-0 with 5:37 left in the second period with his team-high 46th goal of the season.
After Point brought the puck into the zone and gave it to Stamkos, he charged to the net. Stamkos’ pass intended for defenseman Darren Raddysh in front was interrupted by ‘Canes defenseman Jaccob Slavin’s stick, but Point followed the rolling puck behind the net and banked it off the back of Kochetkov’s glove and into the net.
From there, the Lightning closed out the game by flexing the physicality they showed in Saturday’s game in Boston, embracing the loud boos from the crowd at PNC Arena and seemingly fueled by it as they finished hard checks and charged into confrontations.
In the final minutes of the second, after Sebastian Aho ran into Vasilevskiy, the Lightning jumped to protect their goaltender, even though Aho appeared to get tripped into Vasilevskiy by Raddysh.
Vasilevskiy locked down the game with his third shutout of the season with 13 of his 30 saves in the third period, and Point put the game away with his second goal of the night with 7:43 left, quieting the PNC Arena crowd.
Alex Killorn’s empty-net goal with 4:21 remaining sent the Hurricanes fans to the exits.
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