The Tampa Bay Lightning got into the win column when they broke a 2-2 tie with three goals in the third period, including two by forward Ryan Malone on his way to a hat trick, to defeat the Carolina Hurricanes by the score of 5-2 at the St. Pete Times Forum tonight.
"I felt pretty good actually. I got a couple of good saves early on, in the second [period], it was quiet after that. I was not happy about the soft goals, but it happens. And after that and at the end of the game you have to make some saves. You're up by two goals, they're going to come hard and they did. They had a couple of chances but overall we did awesome."
- Antero Niittymaki
"Anytime you miss the playoffs, you're sitting there all summer, you're watching all of the other teams in the playoffs and that's where you want to be. So it's not as fun when you're sitting at home. Ownership did a great job of bringing in the right guys. I think we played 60 solid minutes there. The penalty kill I thought was pretty solid, we got a couple of bounces, but we stuck with the game plan and all five guys are on the same page out there for the most part."
"The bench is a big difference from last year. I really give guys like Konopka and Fedoruk and Downie?those guys really keep the bench alive when they don't get out there for periods of time, guys like that. I really respect those guys. They did a nice job of keeping the guys on the bench alive."
- Coach Tocchet
The Lightning (1-1-2) were aggressive from the puck drop, controlling the play through the opening period and, at one stretch, holding the Hurricanes without a shot for more than eight minutes.
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay was firing away at Hurricane netminder Cam Ward, but without success. The first period came to a scoreless close, but not before the Lightning had peppered the Carolina net with 17 shots, including 10 on two power plays and two additional shots generated when they were skating shorthanded.
The second period would feature a lot less shooting, but a lot more scoring, as both teams found the back of the net twice. Carolina got on the scoreboard first at 12:42 while defenseman Lukas Krajicek was in the penalty box for interference. Hurricane forward Eric Staal skated out from behind the Lightning net and swept the puck passed Antero Nittymaki, making his first start in net as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
That lead did not hold up for long, however, as the Lightning roared back just 42 seconds later to tie the score 1-1 on defenseman Paul Ranger’s first goal of the season, assisted by Vincent Lecavalier and Stephane Veilleux. Just 14 seconds later, at 13:39, Tampa Bay jumped into the lead when Ryan Malone connected on his second goal of the season, and first of the night, with assists from Mattias Ohlund and Marty St. Louis.
Less than four minutes later, it was Carolina’s turn to score as Rod Brind’Amour cashed in a power play opportunity while Steven Stamkos was off the ice for slashing.
The third period was a high-energy show for both clubs as the play went end-to-end, but the score remained tied until Malone connected on his second score of the game at 10:46. Ranger began the play when he shot the puck into the Carolina zone, and it rattled off the boards and bounced out to the slot in front of Ward. St. Louis skated across the slot, collected the loose puck and mad a highlight-reel pass back to Malone. Malone took it from there, beating Ward from 15 feet with a wrist shot.
Tampa Bay stretched their advantage to two goals just under three minutes later when forward Steve Downie redirected a blast from the point off the stick of Andrej Meszaros for his first goal of the season. Ohlund was credited with his second assist of the night on the score.
For the final seven minutes of play, the Lightning withstood everything that the Hurricanes could mount, including a dead-on blast from Staal that Nittymaki was able to get a piece of. With 76 seconds remaining to play and Ward on the Carolina bench in favor of the extra attacker, Malone chased the loose puck into the neutral zone, dove head first and set the puck on a 95’ glide into the undefended Hurricane net. For Malone, the goal gave him his first hat trick as a member of the Lightning and his third career three-goal game.
“It was a good team effort,” Lightning Coach Rick Tocchet said. “It’s nice for the guys, they worked hard.”
Following tonight’s win, the Lightning will host their cross-state rival, the Florida Panthers, on Monday night before heading out on the road for two games.
LIGHTNING BOLTS: Nittymaki finished with 24 saves on 26 shots…the Lightning shot total was 39, led by St. Louis with seven…the win was Tampa Bay’s first over the Hurricanes since March 29, 2008…the five goals were a season high for the Bolts…once again, Victor Hedman led the team in ice time with 26:13…
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