TAMPA, Fla. – Martin St. Louis opened the scoring 23 seconds into the match-up, but the Tampa Bay Lightning gave up two late empty-net goals to drop rare 4-1 decision to the Carolina Hurricanes. Falling to the Hurricanes for the first time in four games at the St. Pete Times Forum, the Lightning closed up a two-game homestand prior to the holiday break.
For Carolina Ray Whitney scored the eventual game-winning goal midway through the third period, added an empty-net goal and posted one assist for three points on the night.
St. Louis wasted little time getting the Lightning on the scoreboard, netting his 13th goal of the season less than half a minute into the game. Gaining control of the puck off defenseman Tim Gleason’s stick behind the net, Brad Richards backhanded the puck to St. Louis at the left faceoff circle. From the hash marks, St. Louis fired a shot that deflected off Glen Wesley and into the net past Cam Ward.
The goal stood as the lone Lightning marker, although goaltender Karri Ramo made a number of strong saves throughout the contest to keep Tampa Bay in the game. Early in the first period Wesley fired a slapshot from the top of the slot that Ramo gloved at the top of his crease for the save.
St. Louis looked to build the Tampa Bay lead in the first after getting a shot attempt off another pass by Richards from behind the net. Firing a shot from the bottom of the left faceoff circle, St. Louis was denied by a left pad save by Ward. The Hurricanes netminder then fell down at the top right corner of his crease to grab St. Louis’ rebound attempt in front of the net.
With less than two minutes remaining in the period Andrew Ladd scored to tie the game at one. After Ramo saved a shot by Matt Cullen at the top left corner of his crease, Ladd was tripped in front of the net. The Carolina winger reached out to backhand the shot into the net as he fell to the ice, posting his third goal of the season.
Jan Hlavac opened the second period with a strong scoring attempt for Tampa Bay. After collecting a rebound off a shot from the point, Hlavac fired the puck through traffic from the left faceoff circle. The shot deflected off a Carolina defender, sending the shot inches over the top of the net.
The Hurricanes responded at the opposite end of the ice as Eric Staal was held off on a partial breakaway. Skating down the middle of the ice against Doug Janik, Staal tried to beat Ramo at the side of the net but was held off at the right post.
Approaching the midpoint of the contest Ramo held off a shot through traffic by Cullen. Ramo made a glove save on the Hurricanes center’s slapshot from the center of the blue line.
The Lightning closed out the frame with a number of chances, including a St. Louis attempt at the front of the net. St. Louis skated down the right wing before cutting to the top of the crease where he tried to flip a high shot in on goal. Ward stopped the puck with a shoulder save.
With a little more than two minutes remaining in the second period Filip Kuba snapped a shot from the point. Vaclav Prospal looked to connect on the rebound at the side of the net but Ward held on to the puck for the save. Shortly after Mathieu Darche had a goal waived off after the rebound from a Vincent Lecavalier shot deflected off his skate into the net.
A little past the nine-minute mark of the third Whitney notched his 17th goal of the season to give the Hurricanes the lead. Converting a pass off the boards by Cory Stillman, Whitney put the puck into the top corner of the net over the left glove side for the score.
Staal tried to extend the Carolina lead minutes later, switching to the backhand in close after skating in alone on Ramo. Ramo covered the shot on the play, but the Hurricanes went on to post a pair of empty-net goals. As the Lightning tried to tie the game, Whitney and Staal each connected to close out the scoring.
Coming into the contest the Lightning had out-scored the Hurricanes 16-7 through the first four games of the season series. Although the teams skated through a scoreless second period, Tampa Bay has out-scored Carolina 10-0 in the middle frame through five games
The Hurricanes out-shot the Lightning 37-30 in the contest as both teams went scoreless on the power play. St. Louis led all skaters with eight shots on goal.
Held off the score sheet in the contest, Lecavalier had an eight-game point streak against the Hurricanes snapped. Lecavalier leads the Lightning in scoring against Carolina with six goals and 11 points this season.
The decision marked only the fourth Lightning loss to the Hurricanes on home ice through the previous four seasons. Tampa Bay has skated to a 12-4-0 record against Carolina at the St. Pete Times Forum in that span, and have won seven of the previous nine match-ups between the clubs.
The Lightning rest for three days before taking a one-game trip to Washington, D.C.. The Lightning will face the Washington Capitals on Wednesday, December 26 (7:00p.m.) for the third time this season. The game marks the fifth of eight meetings between the clubs.
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