RALEIGH, N.C. – Closing out a set of back-to-back games, the Tampa Bay Lightning faced the Carolina Hurricanes during a one-game trip on Saturday night. Despite taking an early lead on a goal by Jeff Halpern, the Lightning dropped a 5-1 decision to their Southeast Division opponent.
Sergei Samsonov scored twice and Cam Ward stopped 22 shots to lead the Hurricanes in the game.
Early in the contest Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis looked to connect for Tampa Bay when Lecavalier got the puck along the back boards. Spinning around for a quick, back-handed pass to the front of the net, Lecavalier found St. Louis in the slot. St. Louis reached out to redirect the pass, but Ward held on to the puck.
Minutes later the line of Jeff Halpern, Mathieu Darche and Michel Ouellet crowded around the net before getting the Lightning on the board. After Halpern centered a pass to Darche, the Lightning winger took a whack at the puck. Ouellet and Halpern each moved to the top of the crease where the puck was banged through the five-hole.
Halpern has recorded points in each of his three games since joining Tampa Bay, posting two goals and two assists.
Responding less than four minutes later, Hurricanes’ leading scorer Eric Staal posted his 31st goal of the season to tie the game at one. After Tuomo Ruutu put a shot on net, Staal collected the rebound deep in the zone. Staal smacked a backhanded shot on net before the puck popped to the right of goalie Mike Smith.
Darche tried to reclaim the Lightning lead later in the frame, spinning around Glen Wesley to put a backhanded shot on Ward from the left wing. Ward caught the puck in the logo before holding on to an attempt by Lecavalier. At the end of a back-and-forth passing play with Jussi Jokinen, Lecavalier snapped a shot from the right faceoff circle but was denied on the play.
At 1:02 of the middle period Joe Corvo scored to give Carolina their first goals in the frame. As two Lightning players skated without broken sticks, Corvo slapped a shot to Smith’s right stick side for his eighth goal of the season.
Minutes later Nick Tarnasky collected the puck behind the net to skate out for a shot from the bottom of the right wing circle. Andre Roy picked up the rebound and forwarded it to Tarnasky as he moved to the slot. Although Tarnasky’s shot went wide, the play circled through the zone before Ward made a blocker save on Andreas Karlsson.
As the Hurricanes skated with on one of six power play opportunities, Smith made one of his strongest saves of the night. Erik Cole slapped a shot from the left point that bounced off the back boards. Corvo gained control of the puck at the right faceoff circle, but Smith dove across his goal line to grab the puck for the save.
Shortly after the save, Samsonov scored his first of two goals to extend the Carolina lead. Samsonov fired a one-timed shot off a pass by Frantisek Kaberle that deflected on the way to the net. The shot slipped to the stick side against Smith for the power play goal.
On a late power play during the second period a shot by Staal rang off the post before Smith made a stick save on Scott Walker, but the Hurricanes opened the third with their fourth goal. Posting his 11th goal of the season, his second of the night, Samsonov gathered the puck Patrick Eaves lost control of a shot attempt on the way to the net. The Carolina winger put a shot to the left of Smith at 4:02 of the frame.
At the six minute mark Staal fed a pass to Ruutu at the left hash marks to set up the final Hurricanes goal. Ruutu snapped a shot to the stick side for his seventh goal of the season.
Although Jokinen carried the puck down the middle of the ice, fighting off a pair of Carolina defenders for a shot, Tampa Bay was unable to climb back from the deficit.
The Hurricanes out-shot the Lightning 33-23 in the contest, and Tampa Bay was scoreless through one power play. The Lightning killed off five of six Carolina man-advantage opportunities in the contest.
Smith stopped 28 shots in his third consecutive start for Tampa Bay. Dropping to 13-11-0 on the season, Smith had not allowed more than three goals in a game since joining the Lightning.
With an assist in the contest, Ouellet extended his scoring streak to four games. Ouellet had recorded goals in three consecutive games entering the contest, and has added two assists during the streak.
The Lightning return to their home ice at the St. Pete Times Forum on Tuesday, March 4 (7:30p.m., Sun Sports, 620 WDAE) to face off against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The game marks a lone home game before Tampa Bay embarks on a three-game road trip.
1 - 0 TBL
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 CAR
3 - 1 CAR
4 - 1 CAR