A win would have meant a two-point gain on a division rival and done much to lessen the sting of Saturday night’s opening loss.
On the heels of a shootout loss in Carolina Tuesday night, the Bolts will now fly home with a much-deserved point and an opportunity to win their first of the season in front of the hometown fans.
In the end, it all came down to Carolina’s Tuomo Ruutu who beat Mike Smith stick side in the post-overtime spectacle to cap a 2-1 Hurricane victory.
"I wasn't sure what I was going to do but it ended up working out so that was pretty good," Ruutu said. "I just had to shoot somewhere. These games are so tight right now."
Not to say the Lightning didn’t put up a fight as it hit the ice at the RBC Center to face an aggressive Carolina squad (and equally fired up crowd).
Though outshout 14-11 in the first period, Tampa Bay created a handful of quality chances with Vinny Lecavalier and Steve Downie meshing nicely on a 2-on-1 and the Lightning’s third line of James Wright, Jeff Halpern, and Drew Miller bringing both speed and pressure into the Canes’ zone.
As luck would have it, none other than former Bolt Jussi Jokinen would light the lamp to give Carolina the early lead after collecting a long outlet pass from Joni Pitkanen and sliding it underneath Smith while on the man advantage.
Though the play was under review for several minutes, the goal was deemed good and remained the lone tally on the board as the opening 20 wound down.
The second period could best be described as a penalty tit-for-tat.
With Staal in the box for interference, the Bolts got both a clean sheet of ice and a full two minutes on the power play to start the middle stanza.
But with the faceoff taken at center ice and Carolina fronting a notably aggressive penalty killing unit, Tampa Bay had difficulty setting up in the offensive zone and was unable to convert for the second time in as many chances.
Only when the Canes drew nearly simultaneous penalties at 4:02 and 4:43 to afford the Lightning an extended 5-on-3 did the puck eventually find the back of the net for the boys in blue.
After seeing his give-and-go opportunity with Marty St. Louis foiled by Cam Ward, Ryan Malone choked up on his stick with mere seconds left on the two-man advantage and took a swing at Steven Stamkos’ crossbar rebound to put the Lightning on the board and tie the score at one all.
Despite a number of additional penalties that ensued, the score remained tied as the second came to a close thanks to Smith’s outstanding play between the pipes.
Throughout the third period, the Lightning carried much of the game when playing at even strength.
Stamkos had a nice chance on a great look off the rush but his nemesis, the crossbar, reared its ugly head again and deflected the puck back into play.
With both teams unable to nudge the goal count up a notch, the game entered a rather uneventful overtime period before heading to the shootout.
Carolina’s Sergei Samsonov scored first after beating Smith’s poke check and Ward got a blocker down to stop St. Louis’ attempt.
In round two, Lecavalier’s backhand missed and ended up hitting the right post while Smith stopped Jokinen’s shot to keep the Bolts in it.
A third Tampa Bay shooter was unnecessary as Ruutu knocked in the winner.
"It's a little mental right now," Tampa Bay coach Rick Tocchet said. "It was the second game of the year. It's one of those things where you have to stick with it. You've just got to free your mind. It's you against the goalie, that's all it is. It's tough when you're in a rut."
Still, the Lightning managed to pick up a point as they leave Carolina 0-1-1 on the season.
Defensively, the pairing of Matt Walker and Paul Ranger seemed to click and Victor Hedman continues to impress with his steadfast effort night-in and night-out.
Andrej Meszaros played in his 300th career NHL game, while Smith recorded his 100th.
Malone’s power play goal marked his first on the season. St. Louis and Stamkos were credited with assists and each now carry a two-game point streak into Thursday’s home opener against New Jersey.
tampabaylightning.com is the official Web site of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa Bay Lightning and tampabaylightning.com are trademarks of Lightning Hockey L.P. NHL, the NHL Shield, the word mark and image of the Stanley Cup and NHL Conference logos are registered trademarks of the National Hockey League. All NHL logos and marks and NHL team logos and marks as well as all other proprietary materials depicted herein are the property of the NHL and the respective NHL teams and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of NHL Enterprises, L.P. Copyright © 1999-2013 Lightning Hockey, L.P. and the National Hockey League. All Rights Reserved.