Tuesday night’s game will certainly be memorable for Brett Connolly, but not so much for the rest of his Tampa Bay Lightning teammates.
Connolly scored the first goal of his NHL career and brought the Bolts back from a two-goal deficit in the third period. I was not the rally started the Lightning hoped for as they would eventually fall 4-2 to the division-rival Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night at the RBC Center.
Teddy Purcell also scored for Tampa Bay, which lost for just the second time in six tries.
Dwayne Roloson, coming off his 29th career shutout versus Winnipeg on Saturday night, stopped 27 of 31 total shots on the night.
With Tampa Bay trailing 3-1 with less than six minutes to go in regulation, Connolly found a loose puck amidst a scrum in front of the net and banged it home to bring the Lightning to within one at 14:16 of the third.
Despite the furious rally that ensued, Chad LaRose notched his second of two goals on the night just 54 seconds later to cap the game’s scoring.
The win was just Carolina’s second in its past six games.
Jeff Skinner scored twice and Cam Ward also pitched in a 28-save effort for the Hurricanes, who avenged a season-opening loss to Tampa Bay on Oct. 7. Ward has allowed two or fewer regulation goals in each of his last five games.
“We didn’t want to try and feel out the way it was going to go,” Martin St. Louis said. “We wanted to come out strong and dictate.”
From the start, despite being outshot 19-7 in the first period, Tampa Bay did just that.
Purcell opened the scoring by putting back a rebound off Marc-Andre Bergeron’s slap shot from the point to make it 1-0 at 15:14 of the first.
It proved to be the only lead the Lightning would see in the game, as the Hurricanes countered with a tally of their own after both Lightning goals on the night.
LaRose’s first of the evening tied things up with the man advantage with just over a minute to play in the opening frame. As Jay Harrison wound up and let a shot go from the point, the puck trickled through the legs of Roloson and slowly crept towards the goal line before LaRose smacked it home to even things up at one.
Skinner’s goal 22 seconds into the middle period then gave Carolina a 2-1 lead.
With both Eric Staal and Larose in the penalty box at 4:58 of the second, Tampa Bay had the chance for the equalizer while on a two-man advantage. Despite receiving three shots on goal from Vincent Lecavalier, the lack of quick puck movement made it easy for Carolina to kill off the opportunity and keep the lead at one.
After that, things began to get tougher on the Lightning.
A few bad breaks and some tough luck seemed to take the game away from the Lightning, more so than the Hurricanes themselves.
Skinner’s second of the night put the Hurricanes up 3-1 at 10:38.
With Tampa Bay cycling the puck in the Carolina defensive zone, Eric Brewer attempted to send the puck in, but instead had his stick blade snap, providing Carolina with an easy odd-man rush back towards the other end. Skinner brought the puck up the ice and fended off the stick-less Brewer before sending a pass to Jussi Jokinen through the slot. Jokinen then returned the puck to Skinner, who tapped it in just over the pad of Roloson as he attempted to get back into position.
Lecavalier, after being robbed twice of goals last Thursday at Nashville, didn’t fair much better Tuesday night either. One of Lecavalier's team-leading seven shots on the night actually snuck through the pads of Ward and appeared headed straight for the far post. Rather than find its way in the net, however, the puck caught the iron instead to keep it a 3-1 game.
“I thought we just had a couple of bad breaks and lost our structure there,” Purcell said. “We needed to get more traffic towards the net in the third and had to come up with a few more goals.”
Connolly cut the deficit to one by finding a loose puck in a scrum in front to make it 3-2, but LaRose’s second tally of the game just 54 seconds later restored the two-goal lead to finish things off.
The loss marked just the first for Tampa Bay in its last four meetings against the Hurricanes, all at the RBC Center.
“They’re a fast team and they certainly came at us right way,” Lightning assistant coach Martin Raymond said. “They were ready to play.”