Even if the wins aren’t coming for the Tampa Bay Lightning, the goals certainly are for the team’s best player.
Steven Stamkos recorded his 47th of the season to keep pace with Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin in the race for the NHL’s goal-scoring crown, despite an 8-5 loss at the hands of the division rival Hurricanes.
Carolina scored five goals in the first period, including three in a span of 1:43, getting two each on the night from Rod Brind’Amour, Eric Staal and Drayson Bowman, who tallied the first of his career.
“It was obviously a dream to score the first one,” Bowman said. “You don’t know quite when or how it’s going to come, but it really feels good.”
The win snapped a two-game losing streak for the Hurricanes, who won for the third time in its last four on the road.
“To put it mildly, that was pretty tough to watch,” Lightning head coach Rick Tocchet said. “I feel sorry for the fans on this one.”
Brandon Bochenski scored twice for Tampa Bay, 5-15-1 in its last 21 games after allowing a total of 13 goals in its previous two contests. Andrej Meszaros also added a goal and an assist.
“It’s pretty embarrassing to be honest. We made a game out of it and made it exciting for the fans, but other than the third period, it was rough,” Stamkos said.
Stamkos made it 1-0 nearly six minutes into the period with a shot from just below the blue line that deflected off Carolina’s Jay Harrison before redirecting into the net.
Bowman drew Carolina even by tapping in a rebound at the front of the crease past Niittymaki at 8:04. He added his second of the night to take a 5-1 lead into the first intermission after Brind’Amour capped his own two-goal performance earlier in the period.
“I thought we played well,” Bowman said. “To get five goals in the first period is really good. We have to give them credit though. They made a game of it and didn’t quit.”
Jussi Jokinen also scored for the Hurricanes, who went up 3-1 at 17:57 in the opening frame on the former Lightning winger’s 30th of the season.
“Obviously it’s a good number,” Jokinen said. “There is some extra motivation in playing against your old team, but I’ve had a good experience here [in Carolina] and it feels nice to get the 30th goal.”
“He’s really played well for us since he’s been here,” Carolina head coach Paul Maurice added. “I’m happy for him because 30 goals is quite an accomplishment. A lot of guys score 20, which is not really a big deal, but not many guys get 30. It feels good to see him persevere and succeed.”
Tampa Bay scored twice in each of the last two periods, with Brandon Bochenski cutting the deficit to three at 4:47 after tapping in a pass along the right side of the crease as he finished off a feed from Nate Thompson.
Staal regained the four-goal lead just two minutes later and found the back of the net again at 9:47 to make it 7-2 midway through the second.
Zenon Konopka later tangled with Harrison and amassed 12 penalty minutes on the night, making him the franchise leader for most in a single season with 260, surpassing the previous mark set by Enrico Ciccone.
Teddy Purcell recorded his fifth of the season when Vincent Lecavalier’s shot from the left circle bounced off Carolina net minder Cam ward and caromed to Purcell who banged it home.
Meszaros added another with five minutes remaining in the third after a wrist shot from the top of the crease bounced over the stick of Ward to bring the Lightning within three, before Bochenski capped a two-goal night with a deflection of Kurtis Foster’s slapshot. The scores came just 85 seconds apart to bring the score to 7-5.
“You can say that we came out and made it a bit of a game,” Foster said. “But that’s not the right way we came out in the beginning of the game to give them a 5-1 lead in the first period.”
Chad LaRose added an empty-netter with 24 seconds remaining in regulation to seal the win.
“You’ve got to find something, whether it’s for yourself, your teammates or the fans,” Stamkos said. “There should always be some motivation, and if there isn’t, then why are we even playing? You’ve got to play hard. We’re professionals and that’s your job. You get paid to do that, so you’ve got to find some sort of motivation.”
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