The Hurricanes (5-7) didn’t take advantage of pouncing on the Lightning (6-5-2), a team that was winless in four straight.
Carolina forwards Kris Versteeg and Victor Rask led all scorers with three points apiece.
Rasked helped set up all three goals that came in order from Eric Staal, Versteeg, and Jordan Staal.
The Lightning, however, topped that by posting four straight singles from Ryan Callahan, Steven Stamkos, J.T. Brown, and Tyler Johnson.
Goaltender Cam Ward made 27 saves in the losing effort while while Andrei Vasilevsky, recently called up from the Syracuse Crunch in the AHL, made 32 stops and earned the win.
“Our puck management and decision-making wasn’t god enough,“ Carolina head coach Bill Peters said.
“We made it hard on ourselves because of the decisions we made.”
Ward made a handful of key saves throughout the opening period and kept Tampa Bay off the scoresheet, while both teams traded power play opportunities.
Carolina capitalized on its man-advantage opportunity when Eric opened the game’s scoring at 15:07.
With help from Versteeg and Rask, the Carolina captain worked the puck to the top of the crease and swept a backhand shot along the ice that made it between Vasilevsky’s pads and into the net.
Leading 1-0 to start the second period, the Hurricanes didn’t take advantage of outworking a team that had played the night before and was skating in its fourth game in six nights.
Giving the puck away 15 times didn’t help either.
“I saw more of a desperate team,” Peters said of the Lightning.
“I thought they upped the ante after 20 minutes and that’s what desperate teams do. They’re skilled, and if you’re gonna give them the puck in the areas that we turned it over in, and give them odd-man rushes, you’re askin’ for trouble and they capitalized.”
The Lightning struck quickly during the opening minute of the second period as Callahan redirected a set-up pass in the low slot from Ondrej Palat and tied it up 1-1 at the 38-second mark.
After struggling to clear the puck while Tampa Bay continued to pressure in and around the Hurricanes net, rookie defenseman Noah Hanifin got his stick up high on Stamkos, and went to the box to serve a penalty for high-sticking.
It was a costly one as Stamkos rifled a shot from the left point that beat Ward cleanly over his blocker-side shoulder, ringing the inside of the post below the crossbar, to give the Lightning their first lead of the night with just under a minute to go before the second intermission.
Top shelf goals from Brown and then Johnson came five minutes apart in the front half of the third period, and extended Tampa Bay’s lead to 4-1.
A Lightning turnover in the Hurricanes zone put the puck on Rask’s stick which he then chipped up to center ice where Versteeg picked it up to head in all alone on Vasilevsky.
Though it looked like the keeper made the save, Versteeg put enough on his quick snap shot that allowed the puck to spin and eventually slide into the net between Vasilevsky’s pads.
Carolina trailed 4-2 with 4:35 to play, and eventually pulled Ward for the extra skater in an effort to further cut into the lead.
It worked as Jordan finally connected to score his first goal of the season.
However, with one second remaining in regulation, time had run out for the Hurricanes who suffered their first loss in four games.
“In the third period, they caught a couple of breaks that went into the net,” Eric said.
“It happens sometimes. We just didn’t have the execution where we needed it.”
Notes: Versteeg currently leads the team in points (10) and assists (8)…Rask has four points (1g, 3a) in the Hurricanes’ last two games and is tied with Eric Staal and Justin Faulk for the team lead in goals (4)… Carolina finished 1-for-2 with the man-advantage, and is 5-for-43 (11.6%) overall on the power play this season…. The Hurricanes are 23-for-29 (79.3%) overall on the penalty kill.