The Lightning are finally on the board against the Hurricanes.
After shutout defeats to Carolina in each of the first two meetings of the season, the Bolts bounced back with a gutsy 4-2 victory on Monday night.
The Lightning dominated in the early going but found themselves down by one on Jesper Fast's goal at the 13:27 mark of the first period. Just as a slashing penalty to Steven Stamkos expired, Fast was left unmarked in front of Andrei Vasilevskiy and he put home the rebound of Martin Necas' shot from the right point to give the Hurricanes the lead.
The goal came completely against the run of play at the time, as Carolina had spent much of the opening minutes defending waves of pressure from Tampa Bay. James Reimer was sharp in goal for the Canes, keeping the Bolts off the board on a pair of early power play chances.
When the Lightning found themselves down a goal to the Canes on Saturday, they got caught chasing the game and their play suffered as a result. Put into a similar situation on Monday, Tampa Bay continued to play their game and were rewarded with a lead in the second period.
After seven scoreless periods of play against the Hurricanes this season, Steven Stamkos finally got Tampa Bay on the board with a blast on a power play early in the second. This time Stamkos added a twist to his signature left circle one-timer, freeing up space for himself by moving back to the top of circle instead of posting up at the faceoff dot. The outcome of the shot remained the same, as he blasted the puck by Reimer at the near post.
Victor Hedman followed that up with his fourth goal of the season to give Tampa Bay the lead. Right off an offensive zone faceoff win, the Carolina defense lost track of Hedman and he gathered Mikhail Sergachev's feed before going bar down on Reimer to put the Bolts up 2-1.
Fast responded with his second goal of the night on a power play late in the period to tie the game heading into intermission. Fast was again able to beat Tampa Bay to a rebound, this time driving hard to the far post and elevating the puck over Vasilevskiy after the goaltender had to fight off Brett Pesce's shot from the left wing.
The game could have easily gotten out of hand for Tampa Bay in that moment as on the ensuing center-ice faceoff, Brayden Point played the puck with his hand and got called for a faceoff violation. The Bolts held firm, however, killing off the remainder of the call that carried over into the third period before a hard-working Ondrej Palat goal midway through gave the Bolts the lead.
A blocked shot fell right to Palat along the goal line and worked his way around the check of Brady Skjei to the front of the net. Once into the slot, Palat banked his shot off Skjei's skate and past Reimer to put Tampa Bay up 3-2. It would go on to stand as the game-winner.
There were some nervy moments for the Lightning down the stretch with Carolina pushing for the equalizer, but Alex Killorn scored into an empty net in the final minute to provide the insurance.
Vasilevskiy was brilliant in net for the Bolts, stopping 34 shots in the win. Of those saves, 17 came in the third period with the Hurricanes keeping the Lightning hemmed in their own zone for long stretches of play.
Forward Alex Barre-Boulet made his NHL debut for Tampa Bay in the win. With losses in three of their last four games, Jon Cooper shuffled his lines on Monday, with the rookie forward drawing in and skating on the third line with Alex Killorn and Yanni Gourde.
This four-game set between the Bolts and Canes now shift to Tampa where the teams will meet on Wednesday and Thursday.
CAR | 13:27 Jesper Fast (1) - Martin Necas, Jake Bean
TBL | 2:26 Steven Stamkos (9) - Victor Hedman, Ondrej Palat - PPG
TBL | 7:12 Victor Hedman (4) - Mikhail Sergachev, Steven Stamkos
CAR | 19:15 Jesper Fast (2) - Brett Pesce, Dougie Hamilton - PPG
TBL | 8:04 Ondrej Palat (7) - Jan Rutta, Brayden Point
TBL | 19:20 Alex Killorn (3) - Erik Cernak - EN