TAMPA, FLA. – A carom of the end boards and one off a defenseman’s skate was all that it took for the Carolina Hurricanes to come up short in a 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on Thursday.
A point shot from Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk was the only one that made it into the net while forward Nikita Kucherov scored both goals and was the hero for the Lightning.
From the opening puck drop, the two teams’ starting goaltenders, Carolina’s Cam Ward (25 saves) and Tampa Bay’s Evgeni Nabakov (29 saves), were the focal point of the game.
Through 40 minutes of play, each had denied double digit opportunities of shots on net as part of an impressive display of goalkeeping.
Kucherov didn’t have to do much to score his first, a power play goal at 6:35 in the third period, when the puck deflected off a seam in the glass behind the Carolina net.
As Ward left his crease to play the puck from behind, the puck changed direction and headed towards the front where the Lightning forward just needed to tap it in to put the home team ahead 1-0.
With traffic in front of the Tampa Bay net, Faulk’s shot from inside the blue line was tipped by a Lightning defenseman and beat Nabokov high over his glove hand.
The goal tied the game 1-1 with just under eight minutes to play.
As the possibility of playing an overtime period was becoming more likely, Kucherov’s attempted pass to teammate Tyler Johnson across the low slot banked off Carolina defenseman Ron Hainsey’s skate and ended up as the game-winner with 31 seconds remaining.
It was another unlucky set of circumstances that overshadowed an exceptional effort by Ward as Carolina suffered its fourth consecutive loss while Tampa Bay reclaimed sole possession of the lead in the Atlantic Division.
“Disappointed for sure, but I like the way we stayed with it and I like the way we played,” Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters said.
“Our guys care. Our guys wanna’ get out of the hole that we’re in. They keep workin’ hard on game day and in practice. So if we stay with it, we’ll be alright.”
Notes: Both teams were locked and loaded as Tampa Bay unleashed 57 shot attempts with 27 making it to the net while Carolina finished with a total of 50 shot attempts with 30 registered as SOG’s…The Lightning won the battle over the faceoff dots, claiming 57 percent (29-22) of all draws taken…Tampa Bay outhit Carolina 17-11…The Hurricanes blocked more shots by a margin of 14-9.