By Peter Koutroumpis
RALEIGH, N.C. – The effort to even the score came up short as the Carolina Hurricanes fell 4-3 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in NHL preseason play at PNC Arena on Wednesday.
Playing in their third game in as many nights, the Hurricanes presented themselves as young and raw, with some nuance of experience mixed in.
The play was choppy early on, but as the game wore on, and the puck settled, Carolina worked to provide the very modest crowd of 6,486 in attendance moments to cheer and get excited for the upcoming regular season.
Carolina outshot the Lightning 32-25, but were unable to tack on another win to their ledger, following two successive preseason road wins at Buffalo on Monday and against the Lightning the night before.
Lucas Wallmark, Derek Ryan, and Sebastian Aho scored in each period respectively, but Tampa Bay never relinquished the lead after Adam Erne beat Hurricanes starting netminder Cam Ward 6:33 into the opening period.
With both teams even after one, the Lightning extended their lead to 3-1 before Ryan’s goal kept Carolina within distance to pull even heading into the third.
Ward finished with 19 saves before Jeremy Smith assumed the Carolina crease for the remainder of the game, giving up a goal at 12:02 of the third.
Boris Katchouk reestablished the two-goal cushion that eventually allowed the Lightning to avenge their previous night’s loss, despite Aho’s power play goal with 1:36 remaining.
Still with 53 players on the training camp roster, Carolina head coach Bill Peters will continue to work with what he has in front of him, with next cuts expected soon.
“There’s some good things we learned tonight,” he said.
“For some guys, this was their first game in a long time. I don’t think they were great. It was a whole different pace. I think the guys that have played have an advantage right now. It’s good to get everybody through this stretch. Now we can take a day off tomorrow and move forward.”
Peters said he expected to have the team’s opening-night roster finalized following the team’s seventh and final exhibition matchup against the Washington Capitals on Sept. 29th.
Peter Koutroumpis, 401-323-8960, @pksport