Ryan Malone has the Carolina Hurricanes’ number.
Malone brought four goals in three games this season into Monday night’s contest at the RBC Center, and in helping the Lightning to a 3-2 win, added another tally to his impressive resume against the Southeast Division rivals.
Malone backhanded a bouncing puck through traffic in front of the crease and past Carolina net minder Cam Ward for his 20th of the season, and the 11th in 24 career games versus the Hurricanes.
“I thought we played pretty solid and made sure we put pucks on net,” Malone said. “It [the goal] was a good job overall by everyone. Knopper [Zenon Konopka] put the body on the guy there in front of the net and Steph [Stephane Veilleux] did a good job of getting the puck back to the point. I just tried to whack it in and I guess you could say I got a little lucky.”
The scoring marks extended Lecavalier and Halpern’s point streaks to four games apiece.
Goaltender Antero Niittymaki made his third consecutive start in net and stopped 20 of 22 shots, including a series of spectacular saves in the second period that preserved Tampa Bay’s one-goal cushion. He also got a little luck, as Eric Staal hit the post in the final five minutes of the middle frame that prevented the Hurricanes winger from evening things up.
The two clubs traded goals after Malone opened scoring at 11:07 in the first period that gave Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead going into the second.
Matt Cullen tied the game at one 16:28 into the middle frame with his ninth of the season, but Lecavalier regained the Bolts’ one-goal advantage on the power play just two and a half minutes later to send a 2-1 lead into the final stanza.
The Lightning captain has nine points in his last eight, including three with the man advantage.
“It was a huge goal for us,” defenseman Mattias Ohlund said. “Obviously they scored and it was tough, but we came back on the power play and Vinny [Lecavalier] scored a great goal for us.”
Chad LaRose scored in the third, tying the game for the second time after finishing a breakaway through the middle of the slot.
The Lightning came right back though, with Downie putting the Bolts up 3-2 at 9:11 and sealing the victory with his first game-winner of the season.
“He’s one of those guys that’s really earned his reputation. He’s got a lot of skill and he’s been growing steadily all year long, producing, and making plays,” Lightning assistant coach Adam Oates said regarding Downie.
In addition, Tampa Bay went 1-for-2 with the man advantage and eliminated all four Carolina power play opportunities.
“We obviously have to play our best to get points,” Ohlund added. “Our penalty kill has had a tough little stretch here so we’ve talked about it a lot in the last couple of days and we were fortunate to kill those off. It builds a lot of confidence. Absolutely.”
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