Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella likely won't be leading his team to the playoffs this season, but he's still on the verge of making history.
Tortorella will try to break the record for most NHL wins by an American-born coach on Saturday night when the Lightning visit the Southeast Division-leading Carolina Hurricanes.
Tortorella took over as Tampa Bay's coach on Jan. 6, 2001 and has led the Lightning (26-31-7) to the playoffs in each of the last four seasons. In 2003-04, he guided Tampa Bay to the franchise's only Stanley Cup title.
Friday's 3-2 overtime win over Toronto was Tortorella's 234th victory, tying him with Bob Johnson. Johnson won 193 games with Calgary and 41 with Pittsburgh, leading the Penguins to a Stanley Cup title in 1990-91.
|Tampa Bay Lightning coach John Tortorella can become the all-time winningest U.S.-born NHL coach with a victory tonight at the Southeast Division-leading Carolina Hurricanes. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)|
Dan Boyle scored on the power play with 2:58 left in overtime and added two assists Friday for the Lightning, who ended a five-game losing streak. Tampa Bay owns the worst record in the Eastern Conference and is 12 points behind Carolina in the Southeast.
"We know where we are in the standings, but we've got to keep on trying and fighting, and I thought we did that tonight," Tortorella said.
Boyle, limited to 19 games this season after undergoing left wrist surgery on Nov. 4, has four goals and 10 assists.
"He's been fighting it, but I thought he played on both sides of the puck and maybe the goal will help him, help his confidence," Tortorella said. "Because he is struggling. He's trying, though. He's trying like hell."
Lightning defenseman Filip Kuba missed his second straight game due to a right knee injury and is day- to-day.
Tampa Bay has dropped two of three against Carolina after winning six straight in the series.
"We know they play us tough every single time," Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward told his team's official Web site. "We know they're going to be ready for us. At this stage of the season every game is huge."
The Hurricanes (33-29-5) lost 4-2 to the New York Rangers on Thursday, ending a three-game winning streak. Carolina, which had averaged 42.8 shots in its previous four games, managed only 28 and trailed 3-0 early in the second period.
"We did give it away in the first period," coach Peter Laviolette said. "We weren't particularly sharp. They played a good defensive game. We talked about a lot of things that we need to do, but didn't seem to execute very well."
Erik Cole scored twice for Carolina, which leads the Southeast by three points over second-place Washington.
"I don't think this is the time of the season where we can afford to make any excuses," said Ward, who made 24 saves. "We played well in spurts, but it wasn't a complete 60 minutes. Clearly they were ready to play and we weren't."
Despite the loss, Carolina has been playing some of its best hockey of the season recently. The Hurricanes entered the game 6-1-1 over their previous eight games overall and 7-0-1 at home in their previous eight at home.
This is the final contest of a six-game homestand for Carolina, which visits Atlanta on Wednesday.