TAMPA - The Carolina Hurricanes were bested again by the Tampa Bay Lightning, 3-1, in the finale of a four-game set between the two divisional foes.
Brett Pesce opened the scoring in the game, but the Lightning scored three unanswered goals, including an empty netter late.
HIGHLIGHTS | PHOTO GALLERY | STATISTICS
Sometimes the better team doesn't win the game. Sometimes a goaltender can steal a win. The Hurricanes know Curtis McElhinney is capable of that. After all, McElhinney stole some games for the Canes in the 2018-19 season. He did it again tonight, only this time it was against the Canes.
McElhinney turned aside 31 of the 32 shots he faced, helping the Lightning bottle their third straight win against the Canes.
And the thing is? It was probably the Canes' most complete game of their last four. But that's the way the puck bounces sometimes.
"It's deflating, no question. We were the better team tonight," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "A lot of grade-As, and we didn't give up much. I was really, really happy. Unfortunately, that's hockey. You get some bad bounces, and a couple things don't go your way."
Yanni Gourde tallied the game-winning goal, a quick wrister in transition that appeared to subtly change direction off the blade of Brock McGinn and find the top far corner.
"Guys are down right now because they played really hard and deserved a better outcome. I asked a lot of them, and they rose to the occasion," Brind'Amour said. "I can't be unhappy with the way we played tonight."
Plus: The start
Jordan Staal was adamant that after being shut out on Wednesday night, the Canes would be better in the second half of the back-to-back.
"We're going to get right back at it and show them our best," he said.
With a little less than six minutes left in the first period, the Canes cashed in on their much better start. Jesper Fast snuck a pass under the defense of Blake Coleman, and Brett Pesce, who hopped into the rush, finished off the scoring play for his second goal of the season.
Video: CAR@TBL: Pesce fires a pass into the back of the net
The Canes' play didn't really taper off from there, even though they couldn't get the puck past McElhinney again. It was a solid effort all around, exactly the type of bounce-back you wanted to see after just not having it the night prior.
"It's a tough one," Sebastian Aho said. "I felt like the effort was there all night."
Minus: Power play
There was a good bit of special teams play - the bulk of it coming in the middle 30 minutes of the game - and though the Canes were a perfect 5-for-5 on the penalty kill, they couldn't strike on the power play. The Canes finished the night 0-for-5 on the man advantage, this for a power play that was seventh-best in the league coming into the game.
"The penalty kill was good, but our power play needs to be better," Aho said. "We battled hard, but the power play cost us the game."
That's not to say the power play was a mess, either, because it wasn't. At times, it was threatening. Chances were there. Shots were there. Even the post pitched in for the Lightning's penalty kill. The Canes just couldn't buy one on the power play, something that might have changed the outcome of the game.
"The power play, it would have been nice to click. We did have a couple good looks and posts," Brind'Amour said. "There were some good things on the power play, but it just didn't happen for us tonight."
After scoring at least one power-play goal in five straight games, the Canes managed just one goal on the man advantage in this four-game set against the Lightning.
0-for-10: The Canes and Lightning were a combined 0-for-10 on the power play, especially notable given the talent level on either side. On the flip side of the coin, it was a letter-perfect evening for both penalty killing squads.
11: Aho tallied his team-leading 11th assist on Pesce's goal in the first period.
You Be the Judge
McGinn had the stick slashed out of his hands on a shorthanded break, but instead of awarding a penalty shot to McGinn, the officials sent Alex Killorn to the penalty box.
Deciding what is and isn't worthy of a penalty shot is the new goaltender interference.
Quote of the Night
"Two good teams competing out there. We didn't get the result we wanted, but those games were hard-fought games." - Sebastian Aho
For the first time in a week, the Canes will play a different team, though they're remaining in the state of Florida. It's now off to Sunrise for a two-game set against the Panthers beginning on Saturday.