St. Louis Scores In Loss
By the time the Tampa Bay Lightning arrived at the RBC Center in Raleigh to face the Carolina Hurricanes, they were a confident team, just past the halfway point of a long four-game road trip.
The Bolts arrived sporting points in 11 of their last 12 games and packing a seven game streak without a regulation lost. Just as good, after a slow start Tampa Bay had found their road legs, having gone 3-0-2 in their last five games away from home.
But they left with a dose of reality and a 3-1 loss.
There were good scoring opportunities by both teams in the first period but only the Lightning were able to get on the scoreboard, thanks to a power play goal by Martin St. Louis, his fifth tally of the year, with 4:42 remaining in the period. St. Louis collected a rebound along the goal line and launched a sharp angle shot that eluded Hurricane goaltender Manny Legace and found the far corner of the net. Vincent Lecavalier and Kurtis Foster earned assists on the score; for Foster, it was his first point as a member of the Lightning.
“I just tried to get the puck on net,” St. Louis said of his goal. “It was nice to see it cross the goal line.”
Mike Smith, starting his third game in net for the Lightning, was tested several times in the first period, most notably when a turnover allowed Eric Cole and Ray Whitney to pass the puck back and forth alone in front of the Tampa Bay net until Whitney launched a shot that Smith got his pad on.
That 1-0 lead collapsed just 2:35 into period two when Tuomo Ruutu scored for Carolina while Ryan Malone was in the penalty box for interference. Ruutu, from the right faceoff circle, one-timed a pass to Smith’s left. Once the score was equalized, Carolina continued to buzz the Lightning net and the Lightning were unable to turn the play around.
Carolina was meeting scant resistance as they pressed the attack into the Tampa Bay defensive end, eventually getting the go-ahead goal at 13:46 of the period when former Lightning Jussi Jokinen, stationed just outside the goal crease, redirected the puck past Smith. The 2-1 lead for the Hurricanes held up through the remainder of the second period with Carolina outshooting the Bolts, 10 -5. Tampa Bay was held without a shot on net until more than 10 minutes of the period had elapsed.
Despite keeping the puck in the Carolina defensive end for long stretches of the final period, puck possession did not translate into shots on goal for the Lightning as they were able to generate only seven shots on net in the final Stanza.
But more importantly, the Hurricanes were able to score with less than five minutes remaining to make the final score 3-1, Carolina. Carolina forward Claude LaRose, breaking in from the right side, flipped the puck over Smith’s shoulder to close out the Tampa Bay comeback effort.
The Lightning finished the night outshot by a margin of 27-21; the 10th consecutive game in which they have been outshot by the opposition. Tonight, that deficit cost Tampa Bay as the loss dropped the Lightning into a four-way tie for seventh in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of Atlanta, the Lightning’s next destination as they wrap up the road trip against the Thrashers.
BOLT NOTES: Tampa Bay was 1-4 on the power play…Lecavalier lead the team with five shots on goal…Andrej Meszaros had 24:36 of ice time, most on the team…the loss dropped the Lightning’s record to 8 -5-7 on the season.
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