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Lightning fall 3-2 to Carolina in preseason opener

Brayden Point and Boko Imama score goals in loss to Hurricanes

by Bryan Burns / TampaBayLightning.com

Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos scored his first goal of the World Cup of Hockey during Team Canada's victory over Team Europe Tuesday in the first game of a best-of-three final.

Turns out, the Lightning could have used Stamkos' scoring punch at AMALIE Arena.

A valiant Tampa Bay comeback effort in the Bolts preseason opener was stopped short as the Lightning ran out of time in a 3-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. The Lightning fell behind 3-0 midway through the second period but scored twice in the third to cut the deficit to one, the second goal coming with goaltender Adam Wilcox sitting on the bench in favor of the extra attacker.

Carolina netminder Daniel Altshuller, however, made a couple key saves over the final minute to preserve the win for the Hurricanes, who move to 2-0-0 in the preseason.

"The competition level and the compete, you're down 3-0, they could have thrown their tail between their legs and walked away, but they dug their heels in and made it 3-2," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said following the game. "Just the competitive level of those guys, that's something you really can't teach and they all had it, so that was great."

Video: Highlights: TBL vs. CAR

Down 3-0, the Bolts finally got on the board at 11:28 of the first period when Brayden Point netted the first goal of the preseason, taking a pass from Tyler Johnson and shooting past Altshuller, who took over for Canes starter Cam Ward (16 saves) at the beginning of the third period. Bolts defenseman Libor Hajek picked up the second assist on Point's goal.

"Johnny outworks the guy behind the net and finds me open in front and I pretty much just had to slide it in," Point said. "It was a pretty nice play by Johnny."

With Wilcox pulled, Boko Imama took advantage of a strong drive to the net by Joel Vermin that left a rebound loose near goal. Imama pounced on the puck and shot past Altshuller to cut Carolina's lead to 3-2 with 1:19 to go in the game. Vermin and Anthony Cirelli had the assists.

"It was just amazing to get a goal," Imama said. "I was just really happy to play a preseason game and add a goal to it. It was really nice."

Tampa Bay had a couple chances in the closing minute but couldn't find the tying goal.

Kristers Gudlevskis started in net for the Lightning and played 30:26 before giving way to Wilcox. Gudlevskis made 21 saves on 23 shots and held up well under a barrage of shots late in the first period and into the second.

"I thought our goaltending was really good, especially when they were peppering us there in the last half of the first period," Cooper said. "I thought Gudlevskis was great."

Carolina's Brody Sutter opened the game's scoring with 53 seconds left in the first period and six seconds after a Canes' power play expired.

The Hurricanes scored twice more in the second period to take a 3-0 lead into the second intermission. Lucas Wallmark put a puck past Gudlevskis at 10:26 of the second, which also signaled the end of Gudlevskis' night. Jeff Skinner converted a 2-on-1 break to score on the first shot Wilcox faced 1:02 after Wallmark's score.

Wilcox finished with 14 saves on 15 shots.

The Lightning return to preseason action on Thursday when they host the Florida Panthers (7:30 p.m. puck drop) at AMALIE Arena.

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