The Carolina Hurricanes return home from a three-game road trip to host Jeff Skinner and the Buffalo Sabres.
The Canes saw their season-best, five-game winning streak snap in Tampa on Thursday night, as the Lightning's league-best power play converted twice in the third period en route to a 3-1 victory.
A Stinging Defeat
The Hurricanes brought a 1-0 lead against the league's top team into the third period on Thursday night, but their discipline wasn't as sharp as it could have been, and it ended up costing them two points.
The Lightning netted two power-play goals in the latter half of the third period to snatch a 2-1 lead, and Brayden Point, who scored the game-winning goal, sealed the deal with an empty-net tally in the waning minutes.
"We knew coming in we couldn't take penalties, and we did. That's the killer. It's a tough call at the end. That's a good game going on, and the guy embellishes a little tap on the back of the legs. I kind of knew that was coming," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "It's too bad. It was a good game. Both teams played pretty hard, I thought, but they got the better of us. Their talent took over on the power plays, and that was the difference."
It was a stinging defeat for the Canes, who played a hard-working game and were just about 10 minutes from extending their winning streak to six games.
"That's a tough one to swallow," Williams said. "You live and you learn through experience. We've won some close games, but this one stings a little bit."
"We played a really good game on the road. We battled hard," said Petr Mrazek, who was named the third start of the game. "Too bad we didn't get any points on it."
"The effort was phenomenal. We were working hard," Brind'Amour said. "We always work hard. We're a hard-working team."
The challenge ahead is for the Canes to park the tough loss and come ready to play less than 24 hours later.
"When you play a team like Tampa, we're in a good position and then to lose it that way, that's a tough way to lose it," Brind'Amour said. "It's going to be tough, but we're going to have to pick the guys up tomorrow and be ready to go."
"It's important to hop back on it, keep playing well and not let this be a turning point in the season for us," Williams said. "Let it be something we learn from. Get back and play the way we can tomorrow."
Friday's contest marks the return of former Canes forward Jeff Skinner. The 26-year old winger, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, was dealt to Buffalo on Aug. 2.
In eight seasons with the Canes, Skinner totaled 204 goals and 379 points in 579 games. The Canes' seventh overall pick from 2010 crossed the 30-goal threshold thrice, including in his rookie season when he appeared in the All-Star Game in Raleigh and became the first player in franchise history to win the Calder Trophy. Skinner ranks fifth in franchise history in goals, seventh in points and ninth in games played.
And, through his charity work, including his 53's Difference Makers program, Skinner left a memorable mark on the community.
The Sabres have won two of their first three games to open the new year, and they're coming off a 5-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils at home on Tuesday. In that game, the Sabres netted all five goals in the second period, beginning with Skinner's 29th goal of the season, which ranks second in the NHL behind only Alex Ovechkin. The Sabres are just 9-9-3 away from home, but their 23-14-6 record (52 points) slots them in the Eastern Conference's second wild card spot.
ADVANCE AUTO PARTS KEYS TO THE GAME
1. Reset & Recharge
Thursday night's game in Tampa was an emotional loss for the Hurricanes. The challenge now is to park that, reset and recharge for another critical Eastern Conference match-up.
2. One vs. Two
The first two picks from the 2018 NHL Draft go head-to-head: Rasmus Dahlin vs. Andrei Svechnikov. Dahlin ranks third in rookie scoring with 21 points (4g, 17a), while Svechnikov's 11 goals rank second among league rookies.
3. Eyes on 53
Former Hurricane Jeff Skinner's 29 goals rank second in the NHL behind only Alex Ovechkin. He's dangerous, and the Canes know it. Limit his chances, and don't let him be a factor in tonight's contest.
AT THE RINK
Tonight marks the fourth game in the 2018-19 Hurricanes Homegrown Series, which showcases the best this local community has to offer in t-shirts, food, beer, art and music. Before heading out to PNC Arena, be sure to check out this rundown of everything that encompasses the Homegrown Series.
The Hurricanes' Military Drive, which benefits servicemen and women through a partnership with the USO of North Carolina, continues tonight. Fans who donate granola bars, chewing gum or beef jerky will be entered to win a gameday experience or autographed prize.
WORTH A CLICK
WATCH, LISTEN & STREAM
Watch: FOX Sports Carolinas, FOX Sports app
Listen: 99.9 The Fan, Hurricanes app, Hurricanes.com/Listen