This was a lot closer than a 5-1 game. The Lightning broke it open with two late empty-net goals and an additional final tally with four seconds left. Up until that point, it was a tight contest - and one that had its fair share of speed bumps for the Lightning along the way.
Carolina controlled play for the first half of the first period. The Hurricanes were passing the puck effectively, so they moved up the ice fluidly and enjoyed some long offensive zone shifts. The Lightning also aided the Carolina surge. Their passing was just off the mark, so their puck possession time was limited. But as he would do in the third period when Carolina made another push, Andrei Vasilevskiy recorded several tough saves. Then, as the period passed the halfway mark, the Lightning found their game. A strong penalty kill that began at the 9:30 mark was the catalyst. They earned their first (and only) power play chance with 2:30 left in the frame and generated several good looks. At one point, Yanni Gourde put consecutive rebounds off the post. Moments later, Carolina pressed to clear the zone, but Brayden Point held in a puck at the right point. As a result, the Hurricanes were caught out of position as Point put the puck down low to Ondrej Palat. Palat took it to the net and forced a save from Scott Darling, but Tyler Johnson slid in the rebound.
The second period was the Lightning's strongest of the game. They had several dangerous looks off the rush. Darling made good saves on Steven Stamkos, Alex Killorn and Mikhail Sergachev. But one shot got past him. After Killorn was denied on a breakaway (separate from his other chance), Johnson slid the puck to Stamkos, who had an open net look. But Stamkos couldn't settle the puck down immediately. So he passed it back to Sergachev, who snapped a quick shot into the net before Darling could reset himself.
Jaccob Slavin's goal early in the third cut the Lightning lead to 2-1 and provided Carolina with a lot of momentum. The Hurricanes carried most of the play in the third, but Vasilevskiy made 11 other saves to preserve the Lightning lead. One of his best came on a point-blank chance for Derek Ryan at the halfway point of the period. After the Hurricanes pulled Darling with just under three minutes left, Vladdy Namestnkov scored an empty-netter. Ryan Callahan, who had a strong overall game, added another empty-net goal. Then, with four seconds left, Stamkos set up Kucherov for the game's final goal. It extended Kucherov's point streak to 10 games, joining Stamkos (who had already posted an assist on the Sergachev goal).
The beginning of the game and the third period were bumpy stretches for the Lightning. But thanks to Vasilevskiy, they withstood those Carolina surges. And even when they didn't have much puck possession, the Lightning defended hard. They finished with 22 blocked shots in the game. As for the other segments of the contest, the Lightning played well - and built a lead they would not relinquish.
With this win, the Lightning completed the best opening 10-game segment in franchise history. With a record of 8-1-1, they amassed 17 out of a possible 20 points.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game:
Vasilevskiy's third period save on Ryan.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
- Andrei Vasilevskiy - Lightning. 30 saves.
- Tyler Johnson - Lightning. Goal and assist.
- Ryan Callahan - Lightning. Goal.