RALEIGH, N.C. – Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier each recorded a pair of points, but a three-goal effort by Chad LaRose proved to be too much for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Opening a set of back-to-back games, the Lightning dropped a 6-2 decision to the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday night.
St. Louis and Jeff Halpern scored for Tampa Bay as the team played its eighth and final game of the season against Carolina. The contest opened the club’s season-ending road trip, a stretch of three games in four nights.
Posting his first of two points on the night, Eric Staal opened the scoring 32 seconds into the first period. After picking up the puck high in the Lightning zone, Staal skated hard down the right side before snapping a shot from the right faceoff dot. The puck beat goaltender Mike Smith to the far blocker side for Staal’s team-leading 37th goal of the season.
Mathieu Darche and Michel Ouellet followed up the goal with a pair of shots, starting with Darche slapping the puck as he crossed the blue line at the left point. As the Lightning continued to cycle the puck in the zone, Ouellet back-handed a shot against netminder Cam Ward but was held off with a right pad save.
Shortly after, with Doug Janik coming out of the penalty box, Dennis Seidenberg fed a long pass from the blue line to Sergei Samsonov at the bottom of the left circle. Samsonov snapped off a one-timed shot, but Smith slid across the goal line to covert the puck.
Tying the game at 8:24 of the frame, St. Louis scored on the power play to post his 25th goal of the season. After Vincent Lecavalier slapped a pass from the point, Jussi Jokinen redirected the puck at the front of the net. Open at the left hash marks, St. Louis sent a shot into the top of the goal as Ward dove in front of his net to block the attempt.
With less than four minutes remaining in the LaRose posted his first goal of the night to reclaim the Hurricanes lead. Skating to the right of Smith from behind the net, Staal put the initial shot on goal from the line. Smith stopped the shot, but LaRose banged the puck through the five hole for the score.
Minutes later Smith made a pad save against Frantisek Kaberle as slapped a shot from the left point following a Carolina faceoff win. Although the Lightning got the puck out of the zone, the Hurricanes’ Ray Whitney carried the play across the blue line before dropping a pass for Joe Corvo. The Carolina defenseman wristed a shot on goal, but Smith smothered the attempt to stop play.
Shortly after the expiration of a Lightning power play early in the middle period, Nick Tarnasky slapped a shot from the left point. Ward stretched across his crease to make the glove save.
Less than one minute later LaRose added his second goal of the night to build a 3-1 Carolina lead. Smith made the initial save when Corvo slapped a shot from the point, but LaRose came up behind the play to pop the loose puck through traffic and into the net.
Within the next four minutes Scott Walker extended the Hurricanes lead with his 14th goal of the season. As Carolina skated with the man advantage, a dump-in attempt angled off the glass as Smith skated behind the net to play the puck. Walker collected the puck and scored on the open goal.
As the Lightning looked to cut into the Hurricanes lead, Filip Kuba tapped a pass up to St. Louis as the club skated on the power play. St. Louis turned to snap a shot from the right faceoff circle, but Ward got a piece of the puck with his glove to knock away the attempt.
Darche opened the final period with a short-handed scoring chance, skating down the right wing before cutting to the front of the net. The Lightning winger got off a shot from in close, but Ward covered the puck to stop the play.
Less than two minutes later Tuomo Ruutu connected with the man-advantage, scoring his 10th goal of the season. At the right wing side, Ruutu collected a circle-to-circle pass by Samsonov before firing a wrist shot into the top right corner of the net.
Tampa Bay continued to pressure Carolina after the goal, with Ward making a stick save on a Lecavalier slap shot from the right point.
Skating with the man-advantage, Lecavalier sent a pass to Dan Boyle at the point, but Ward smothered the resulting slap shot. Lecavalier added another slap shot from the top of the right circle as the penalty expired, but Ward made a pad save before a Carolina defender cleared out the rebound.
With a little more than four minutes remaining in the game Halpern put the second Lightning goal on the board with his 20th of the year. From the goal line, St. Louis passed the puck to Halpern in the slot. Halpern smacked a shot from the right hash marks, putting the puck high into the left corner of the net at Ward’s stick side.
In only 17 games with Tampa Bay, Halpern has doubled his season goal total. The goal was Halpern’s 10th since joining the Lightning, his 18th point during the stretch.
Despite the score, LaRose added his third goal of the night with 1:39 left on the clock. Collecting the puck after Erik Cole angled a shot off the left boards, LaRose skated into the zone on a breakaway. The Carolina center moved to the backhand as he approached Smith, slipping the puck into the left side of the net.
Smith posted the decision as the Lightning were out-shot, 32-25. Staal, Carolina’s leading goal- and point-scorer, led all skaters with six shots on goal. Both teams connected on two of six power play opportunities in the contest.
Tampa Bay closes out their final set of back-to-back games on Thursday, April 3 (7:00p.m., Sun Sports, 620 WDAE) with a match-up against the Washington Capitals. The game marks the fourth and final meeting between the teams at Washington this season.
1 - 0 CAR
Martin St. Louis
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 CAR
3 - 1 CAR
4 - 1 CAR
5 - 1 CAR
Martin St. Louis
5 - 2 CAR
6 - 2 CAR
Martin St. Louis