Lightning Drop Home Opener In Overtime
Tampa Bay Falls To Carolina, 4-3
Despite two strong periods of hockey, the final result could not have been more disappointing for the Tampa Bay Lightning and their faithful as they dropped their home opener to the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 in overtime.
Tampa Bay dominated the first two periods and held a two goal lead at the onset of the third, but Carolina roared back behind to power play goals to tie the contest in regulation and prevailed on Eric Staals's second goal of the night, with only 24 seconds remaining in the overtime period.
Tampa Bay jumped out to the lead at the 8:20 mark of the initial period, with a goal by Mark Recchi, his first as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning, past Carolina goalie Michael Leighton, assisted by Matt Carle and Jussi Jokinen. Tampa Bay widened their lead to two, as newcomer Janne Niskala netted his first goal as a member of the Lightning, a power play tally at 10:27 of the first period, with Wade Brookbank penalized for Carolina for roughing Gary Roberts. Vaclav Prospal and Jamie Heward assisted on the score.
As the first period came to a close, Tampa held a 2-0 lead and had generated 16 shots to 12 for the Hurricanes.
Tampa Bay continued their dominance with a power play goal by Captain Vincent Lecavalier
, scored at the 9:01 mark and assisted by Martin St. Louis
and Jamie Heward. For Heward, the assist was his second of the night. Lecavalier’s goal elevated the Lightning power play to a record of 2 goals on 5 chances for the night, and appeared to put the Lightning in a commanding position in the contest.
, starting his second game of the season in the Lightning net, was the equal to everything Carolina could generate to that point.
The Hurricanes finally registered their first goal, 9 seconds before the buzzer, on a power play score by veteran Rod Brind’Amour. Brind’Amour’s goal came with Matt Carle, who led the Lightning in ice time with 30:10 seconds, in the penalty box for holding and was assisted by Joni Pitkanen and Ray Whitney.
Despite the late goal by the Hurricanes, the Lightning still appeared to be in a commanding position with 20 minutes remaining to be played and a 3-1 lead. Events would prove otherwise, however.
Carolina, which had skated to a 6-4 victory the previous night against the Florida Panthers and arrived early Saturday morning in Tampa, seemingly woke from a prolonged slumber and ripped the Lightning in the crucial third stanza.
Matt Carle was sent to the penalty box with only 51 seconds gone in the period, the ninth Lightning infraction of the evening. Hurricane veteran Matt Cullen made the offense costly for the Lightning when he scored a power play goal, the second of the contest for the Hurricanes, assisted by Rod Brind’Amour and Joni Pitkanen. The goal tightened the Lightning advantage to 1 goal. For much of the period, Carolina swarmed the Lightning zone as Mike Smith
came up with one acrobatic save after another until Eric Staal finally converted at 10:05 knot the score at 3 apiece.
With 2:00 remaining in regulation, Sergei Samsonov was whistled for delay of game. Despite the extra man advantage, their 7th of the contest, the Lightning were not able to generate much and had to be bailed out by Smith, who stepped up to rob Staal on a short-handed opportunity.
Shots on goal, which have proved hard to come by for Tampa Bay so far in the brief season, again proved a difficulty for the Lightning. They were outshot by Carolina in the third period, 20 – 2, and had lost much of the momentum and control they enjoyed through the first two periods.
In overtime, both squads had chances but could not convert and a shootout loomed large until Eric Staal caught the Lightning deep in the Hurricane zone and broke out on a two-on-one with Ray Whitney. With 24 seconds remaining in the overtime period, Staal put the puck behind Smith to complete Carolina’s improbable comeback.
The overtime loss saw the Lightning earn their first point of the season and put their record at 0-2-1, while Carolina, an important interdivisional foe, improved to 2 wins against no losses.
Lightning goalie Mike Smith
produced another strong effort, contributing 42 saves on 46 shots. Vincent Lecavalier
and Radim Vrbata each had a game-high 4 shots for Tampa Bay, who finished with a total of 29 shots on net.
After the game, coach Barry Melrose said, “We played good for two periods, but seemed to stop skating in the third.”
The Lightning will get a few days off now and look to break into the win column Thursday night at the St. Pete Times Forum against the New York Islanders.
|Three star selections