The Hurricanes used a three-goal first and solid goaltending from Irbe to win their fourth straight home game. The Lightning fell to 0-9-3 in their last 12 road games against Carolina.
The home winning streak was the longest since Carolina moved from Hartford, Conn., four seasons ago.
Vincent Lacavalier's first goal in 11 games, shot from his knees with 5:53 left, narrowed it to a one-goal game. Irbe helped secure the victory as Carolina had to kill a Martin Gelinas cross-checking penalty with 2:18 left.
Gelinas added his 11th of the season in the final 1:24 of the opening 20 minutes to give the Hurricanes, who scored just 23 goals in the first period in 37 games, their first three-goal opening period this season.
Francis pounced on a rebound 4:26 in for his seventh of the season and 1,587th career point, moving within four of Phil Esposito for fifth on the NHL's career scoring list.
Four minutes later, Hatcher flipped in a soft shot from the point, but Dan Cloutier was screened by Jeff Daniels and it sailed over his right shoulder for a 2-0 Carolina lead.
Hatcher's goal was the 224th of his career and first with Carolina after being acquired in the offseason from the New York Rangers. It was also the defenseman's first in 38 games dating to last season.
Gelinas made it a three-goal lead late in the first when his centering pass from behind the net hit off the skate of Tampa Bay defenseman Paul Mara and went by Cloutier, replaced by Kevin Weekes to start the second period.
Mara ruined Irbe's shutout bid with his fifth goal of the season with 17:14 left.
Notes: Irbe started his 25th straight game for Carolina. ... Tampa Bay last beat Carolina on the road in 1995. ... The Hurricanes improved to 11-0-1 when leading after two periods. ...
First Period: Scoring: 1, Carolina, Francis 7 (power play) (Oneill, GWesley), 4:26. 2, Carolina, Hatcher 1 (Dimaio, T Westlund), 8:33. 3,Carolina, Gelinas 11 (Kapanen, Vasicek), 18:36. Penalties: P Mara, T.B.(High sticking), 2:47; Wallin, Car (interference), 9:09; Zyuzin, T.B.(Interference), 9:39; Francis, Car (elbowing), 14:05; D Cloutier, T.B.Served by Modin (interference), 14:46.
Second Period: Scoring: None. Penalties: Wallin, Car (boarding), 1:49;Lecavalier, T.B. (Cross checking), 1:49; Dimaio, Car (roughing), 6:06; TWestlund, Car (tripping), 10:12; P Mara, T.B. (Roughing), 12:19; Zyuzin,T.B. (Roughing), 12:19; Malik, Car (roughing), 12:19; Karpa, Car(misconduct), 12:19; Wallin, Car (high sticking), 18:11; Drulia, T.B.(Interference), 19:14.
Third Period: Scoring: 4, Tampa Bay, P Mara 5 (B Richards), 2:46. 5,Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 15 (Kubina), 14:07. Penalties: Vasicek, Car(roughing), 2:16; Lecavalier, T.B. (Hooking), 2:16; Kubina, T.B.(Tripping), 5:44; Sarich, T.B. (Unsportsmanlike conduct), 6:54; Francis,Car (unsportsmanlike conduct), 6:54; Vasicek, Car (tripping), 7:04; Malik,Car (slashing), 12:39; R Johnson, T.B. (Cross checking), 12:39; Gelinas,Car (cross checking), 17:42.SHOTS ON GOAL
Power-play Conversions: Tam - 0 of 7, Car - 1 of 5. Goalies: Tampa Bay,D Cloutier (8 shots, 5 saves; record: 2-8-3), Weekes (start of 2nd, 12,12), D Cloutier (17:42 of 3rd period). Carolina, Irbe (38, 36; record:14-14-4). A: 7,517. Referees: Sutherland, Watson. Linesmen: G Devorski,Orourke.