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Barberio strikes twice for Lightning in win vs. Carolina

by Kurt Dusterberg /

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Mark Barberio hasn't seen a barber for two years. That will change in the next day or so.

The Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman has been growing his dark brown locks since January, 2012, when he was a minor-leaguer with the Norfolk Admirals. A few weeks ago, he figured it was time for a change, so he decided to sync his appointment with his eventual first NHL goal.

Consider it solved, twice over.

Barberio scored the opening goal in Tampa Bay's three-goal first period, then added another and Ben Bishop set a new franchise record with 48 saves in a 5-3 win against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena on Sunday.

With the victory, the Lightning moved into a first-place tie in the Atlantic Division with the Boston Bruins, who lost to the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 in a shootout earlier in the day.

"I think it's gotten a little too long," Barberio said after the game, pondering about seven inches of wavy, dark brown hair. "It will be good to clean it up a bit."

And the new length?

"I will consult with my teammates and see what they think," he said. "It's got to go though. I made a promise."

A sixth-round pick at the 2008 NHL Draft, Barberio earned his way to the sport's top level after three seasons in the American Hockey League. He entered pro hockey with Lightning coach Jon Cooper, each making his debut in Norfolk.

"He's a kid who was pegged for the (ECHL) and found a way to stick with our team (in Norfolk)," Cooper said. "You can't just jump into the NHL and dominate. You have to figure it out a little bit.

"He still has a long way to go, but watching him the last three or four games, he's the Barbs we saw in the American Hockey League. You can just see his confidence. I thought he was our best defenseman tonight. It's an organization sticking with a prospect and he's starting to pay dividends for us."

Barberio wasn't the only late-rounder to make an impact against Carolina. Ondrej Palat, taken in the seventh round in 2011, had a goal and an assist for the Lightning, one of 12 players to hit the score sheet.

But Tampa Bay needed all the goals it could muster; Carolina fired 51 shots on net, 17 each period. Bishop had to be sharp throughout, beginning with an early stretch when the Hurricanes raced to an 8-1 advantage in shots at the start of the game.

Then the Lightning turned the tide on the power play.

Barberio scored at the edge of the crease at 6:09, taking a backhand pass from Alex Killorn. The Hurricanes played the sequence at a disadvantage after Andrej Sekera's stick was broken by a shot. Patrick Dwyer handed off his stick and went to the bench for a replacement, only to have Barberio find the net before Dwyer could help defend.

"That opened up a lane for me to get to the back door and I knew I wasn't going to be covered," Barberio said. "It just so happened that the puck settled down for Killorn at just the right spot. He made a really nice behind-the-back pass to me and I just had to throw it in the net."

Tampa Bay made it 2-0 less than two minutes later on Palat's 10th of the season, a one-timer from the slot after a Martin St. Louis pass from the left wing. Nikita Kucherov pushed the lead to 3-0 at 15:07 after Ryan Malone started the play by winning a couple puck battles along the boards.

That spelled the end of the night for Carolina goaltender Justin Peters, who had not played since Dec. 27. He was relieved by Anton Khudobin.

For the Lightning, playing their 11th game since New Year's Day and eighth on the road, the three-goal cushion turned out to be important.

Although Teddy Purcell pushed the Tampa Bay lead to 4-0 just 24 seconds into the second period, the Hurricanes kept pressing. Alexander Semin finished a beautiful end-to-end rush on the power play with a shot inside the far post at 1:46. Less than four minutes later, Eric Staal stole the puck from Jean-Philippe Cote in the neutral zone and fired a shot between Bishop's legs.

"We hung him out to dry the majority of the game," said Tyler Johnson, who assisted on Palat's goal. "Lucky for us, we were able to score some goals that we were lucky to get. Not the greatest game by us, but a win's a win I guess."

Barberio scored his second goal at 8:12 after hard-working shift by the Lightning. His slap shot from the high slot deflected off Sekera's stick.

Carolina defenseman Ron Hainsey cut Tampa Bay's lead to 5-3 at 6:14 of third period, and the Hurricanes threatened until the end. With less than two minutes remaining, Semin crept in on goal with Bishop sprawled on the ice.

Bishop's 48 saves eclipsed the 47 made by Antero Niittymaki against the Boston Bruins on March 25, 2010.

"It hit my glove," Bishop said. "Once I slid across, I saw him take a step, and I just tried to keep the glove in front of the puck, and I had a pretty good piece of it."

With such a long stretch of travel now over, Cooper conceded that his team is tired, mentally more so than physically.

"Every game is not going to be a Picasso," Cooper said. "Things like tonight haven't happened too often this year. Obviously we feel fortunate to get out of here with two points, but we're not giving them back."

The Hurricanes (20-19-9) have now lost three of their past four games.

"Nobody quit," Carolina coach Kirk Muller said. "We were down early and all that. After that, there were a lot of things that were better in the game tonight."

Muller was quick to defend Peters, whose strong play early in the season allowed Carolina to find its stride.

"If it wasn't for him, we would not have been in the playoff race," he said. "There were a couple of breakdowns on those first couple goals."

Meanwhile, somewhere in Tampa, a barber will take on a new client early this week. The only question is how much Barberio will take off? His coach might want to weigh in.

"I'd like it to be the exact length it is now," he said. "Whatever this length is is good for me."

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