HIGHLIGHTS | PHOTO GALLERY | STATISTICS
The Canes claimed a point in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Lightning on Monday night, but they had better. They knew it.
"We need to up the ante a little bit if we want to get to a playoff-level type game," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said.
Less than 24 hours later, the Canes returned to the ice at Amalie Arena and, in every facet of the game, made a statement on the road against the defending Stanley Cup champions.
"I think everybody was a little bit angry from last night's game," Nino Niederreiter said. "We knew exactly what we had to bring and how to respond."
The game was physical. It was emotional. It was a battle. And the Canes prevailed.
"This was a 60-minute effort all the way through," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "We were a little more invested in the game and probably they weren't. … It was solid, top to bottom."
The Second Period
It was a 60-minute effort, indeed, but the Canes broke the game open in the second period.
Niederreiter got the Canes on the board first almost eight minutes into the middle frame. Vincent Trocheck motored the puck up the ice and stickhandled around Anthony Cirelli along the left-wing boards. He then dished a gorgeous backhand feed to Niederreiter, who cut to the middle and beat Andrei Vasilevskiy with a glove-side wrister from the slot.
Video: CAR@TBL: Trocheck sets up Niederreiter's opening goal
On the ensuing faceoff, Jordan Martinook and Barclay Goodrow dropped the gloves. Each player landed a solid right before the stripes stepped in.
"Once we got on the board, we kind of got energized. Marty had a great fight," Steven Lorentz said. "That got the boys going, too."
Just 25 seconds after Niederreiter opened the scoring, Staal doubled his team's lead and infused the bench with even more energy. Undeterred by a handful of cross checks from a pestering Yanni Gourde, Staal won a territorial battle to get a stick on Dougie Hamilton's point shot and redirect it past Vasilevskiy. Staal turned toward Gourde and tossed his hands in the air in celebration.
"That's exactly what a captain does. That's textbook. Jordo is a guy who leads by example," Lorentz said. "He stood his ground, did his job and tipped the puck in. That got such a loud reaction from the bench. It just fired us up so much. When your captain is doing stuff like that, it makes you want to go out and do it yourself on the next shift."
Video: CAR@TBL: Staal redirects shot to double lead
"It's a game of battles. Jordo does it every shift, and it's nice [for him] to get rewarded," Brind'Amour said. "The dirty work, right? The battle level. It's nice when you get those, especially against a guy who you're battling."
Later in the second period, with three minutes and change left, the Canes' fourth line gained possession in the defensive zone and then won a battle in the near corner of the offensive zone. Morgan Geekie fed Lorentz, who roped a far-side snap shot past Vasilevskiy to put the Canes ahead 3-0.
Video: CAR@TBL: Lorentz snipes Lorentz's dish into the twine
"Geeks and I have worked on that move in practice for the last couple of weeks," Lorentz said. "I was fortunate enough that they kind of missed coverage. I got a good shot on net, and it went in. I'm very happy with the way our line played tonight, and we just have to keep that energy going into Florida."
Though Brayden Point got one back for the Lightning before the end of the period, it was a statement second for the Canes and the difference in the 4-1 final.
Plus: Team defense
The Canes played with five defensemen for much of the game - more on that below - but they still were able to lock down Tampa Bay's threatening offense.
"Honestly, I didn't really notice we were down because we were just playing so well," Alex Nedeljkovic said. "As a D corps, they were solid."
The Canes limited the Lightning to 27 shots on goal, including seven in a dominant second period and nine in the third, when the Canes sealed their fourth win against the Lightning this season. The team was also 2-for-2 on the penalty kill, which included a stellar outing late in regulation to preserve what was a 3-1 lead at the time.
When the Canes did break down defensively, Nedeljkovic stopped 26 of the 27 shots he saw, including a sharp, quick-reaction stop on Ryan McDonagh's point-blank scoring opportunity in a 0-0 first period.
In his last 14 starts, Nedeljkovic is 10-3-1 with a 1.57 goals-against average, a .943 save percentage and three shutouts.
Minus: Losing Brady Skjei
The Canes had to play with five defensemen for nearly two periods because of Blake Coleman's dangerous hit-from-behind on Skjei late in the first period.
"That's a hit from behind. Nothing's going to happen, but now we have a guy who might have a concussion. Not happy about that," Brind'Amour said. "The five D hung in there and battled hard for each other."
4: Hamilton has tallied an assist in four straight games (4a).
4-3-1: The Canes finished their eight-game regular-season series against the Lightning with a 4-3-1 record.
5-2-0: The Canes are 5-2-0 on the second half of back-to-back sets this season.
Nearly the Play of the Night
If there is another Canes player who could pull off The Svech, it's probably Martin Necas.
Quote of the Night
"We're poised to make a deep run hopefully, and games like this are only going to push us in the right direction. … We believe that we can do something special here." - Alex Nedeljkovic
Another big two-game set is next, as the Canes head to South Florida to take on the Panthers on Thursday and Saturday.