RALEIGH, N.C. – The Carolina Hurricanes extended their current losing streak to four games, coming up short in a 3-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in front of 14,828 in attendance at PNC Arena on Saturday.
Goaltender Justin Peters ended up facing a total of 32 shots in the losing effort, while Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop stopped all 31 shots that the Hurricanes managed to put on him.
For anyone who’s watched Carolina play this season, the team’s effort at both ends of the ice against Tampa Bay was an exceptional one, but it was overshadowed by the final result of not being able to any score goals and suffering a shutout loss.
“I thought our goalie was good tonight, but he didn’t win the game,” Hurricanes head coach Kirk Muller said.
“I thought our five-on-five was good tonight, but we lost the five-on-five. The power play was good. I thought they did all the stuff they’re supposed to do, we moved it around, but didn’t score a goal. So I think what we’ve got to do is stay the course. It’s not easy to say it, but I think overall, (we did) a lot of good things. We just have to be a little bit better in all areas. It makes the difference of a win and a loss.”
No strangers to one another as former Southeast division rivals, both teams knew what to expect of one another.
Led by two of the National Hockey League’s top scorers in Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis, the tandem managed to contribute to two of Tampa Bay’s goals to give the Lightning their eighth win in their last nine games played in Raleigh.
The Hurricanes, led by Eric Staal (5 SOG) and Alexander Semin (5 SOG) both took lengthy possessions of the puck on many occasions throughout the game in order to try to set up their teammates and themselves by putting high quality shots on Bishop.
However, the large and well-positioned netminder managed to carry the defensive load for his team until the Lightning offense eventually kicked in with the first goal of the game midway through the second period.
After the two teams skated to a scoreless first period in which Carolina outshot Tampa Bay 5-3, it had the makings of being a closely contested game right up until the final horn.
“Trying to create a little more offensively,” Staal said.
“I thought we did that tonight. It was such a tight game there, and goin’ into the third period there… we’ve gotta’ find a way to get the job done, especially at home. We weren’t able to do that and obviously that was the end result.”
Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman strategically dumped the puck off the end boards in the Carolina zone and as the play progressed in a somewhat slow-motion frame-by-frame manner, the puck deflected off the kick plate strip along the boards, caromed off the post and off Peters’ pads before sliding across the goal line.
It was a goal Peters and Carolina would have liked to have back.
“I saw it,” Peters said.
“I just gotta’ get to that post, I gotta’ push to that post instead of watchin’ the puck with my eyes. It was a mental lapse. I gotta’ be better than that and I will be.”
Trailing 1-0 as the puck dropped for the final period of play, Carolina continued to keep the pressure on Bishop and the Tampa Bay defense.
Newly-signed centerman Manny Malhotra (15-20 FW) made a significant contribution in the third period, winning seven faceoffs to give his new team the puck possession it needed to continue putting scoring chances together.
Unfortunately, even with Malhotra, Staal, and Peters’ contributions towards executing the team’s game plan, the Lightning took advantage of a few defensive lapses early and late in the period to score two more goals to effectively put the game out of reach for Carolina.
“I think we gotta’ approach it just one game at a time,” Muller said.
“We gotta’ look at tonight and say, ‘hey, you know what, these are the areas to build on’. Scoring opportunities were there – we didn’t score. Penalty killing did their job. All the details of the game were much better tonight than in a couple of previous games without the outcome we wanted. If we can just get better in each area, then that probably makes the difference of winning the game.”