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'Canes spoil Tocchet's debut

by Brian Compton / NHL.com
Give Rick Tocchet some time. The new coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning insists that things are going to get a whole lot better.
   
On Sunday, though, it was more of the same.
   
Tuomo Ruutu and Rod Brind'Amour scored in the shootout, while Cam Ward made a pair of saves as the Carolina Hurricanes handed Tocchet a 3-2 loss in his first game as an NHL head coach at the RBC Center.
   
''It's a step in the right direction,'' Tocchet said. ''I thought the guys played well, I think they're really starting to get what we're trying to do here.''

Tocchet had just one practice to make adjustments after he replaced Barry Melrose on an interim basis on Friday. Melrose was fired following a 3-game losing streak.
   
However, there were signs of improvement in Tocchet's first game. Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis scored in the same game for the first time this season after Tocchet reunited their line with Vinny Prospal.
   
''This is our first crack at it,'' St. Louis said. ''I thought he did a good job. I wish we had a better outcome, but I thought we stuck together. We battled hard.''
   
St. Louis scored the lone goal of the first period, when he took a cross-ice feed from Radim Vrbata and fired a rising shot past Ward for his fourth goal of the season. Tampa Bay was able escape the first with a one-goal lead, largely in part because of goalie Mike Smith, who made 12 saves in the opening period.
   
Lecavalier put his team up by a pair 4:09 into the second. With the Lightning on a power play, Lecavalier converted on a feed from Mark Recchi for his seventh goal of the season.
   
But Wade Brookbank got the 'Canes going at 14:19 of the second when his sweeping shot off the rebound of a Brandon Sutter sharp-angle shot gave the Carolina enforcer his first goal in 30 games.
   
“They probably weren’t suspecting that,” Ray Whitney said of Brookbank's tally. “Anytime you have other people who are struggling to score you are going to need something from some unlikely people. With some of our top players -- myself included -- not getting the goals that we’re used to right now, you need some secondary scoring. To see his enthusiasm and see how much excitement that it brought to the building, maybe that’s the one guy we needed to score.” 
   
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The Hurricanes certainly fed off the momentum, as Brind'Amour moved out of a tie for 50th on the NHL's all-time scoring list when he beat Smith just 1:18 later as his shot from the left circle found its way to the back of the net thanks to Whitney setting a perfect screen in front. It was Brind'Amour's team-leading seventh goal of the season.

''I hope this puts us in the right direction,'' said Brind'Amour, who now has 1,128 career points. ''Our game is not where you want it to be. But a win is a win and we'll take it any way we can get it.''
   
Neither team scored in the third period, although the Lightning dominated the play. They were also given a man-advantage that carried over from regulation to the first 1:45 of overtime, but were unable to capitalize. Tampa Bay outshot Carolina 8-1 in the third.
    
The Lightning outshot Carolina 8-1 in the third period. Then they had a man-advantage that carried over from regulation to the first 1:45 of overtime, but they couldn't capitalize.

''You get a 4-on-3, you need to score a goal, because then it can go to a shootout, and then who knows,'' St. Louis said. ''I take full responsibility. I'm the guy that's out there, and I've got to get the job done, and I didn't.''

 
 
Ward’s biggest save on the overtime 4-on-3 came against Vrbata, who was stoned on an odd-man rush by Ward’s pads. Ward also turned away Vrbata from in front with 6:15 left in regulation to keep the score tied 2-2.

“That’s what it’s all about,” the Hurricanes' netminder said. “Look at all of our games, they’re one-goal games and it’s my job to come up with some big saves at key times in a game. I tip my hat to the guys, we played with a lot of emotion and that’s something that we desperately needed. To be able to come back, being in a hole 2-0, it’s huge for us and hopefully we can build off of this. We showed a lot of positives.” 

As did the Lightning, who were able to at least earn a point in the standings in Tocchet's debut.
   
''The last thing I need to do is show the guys that I'm too anxious or stuff like that,'' said Tocchet, who got a visit from former Hurricanes player and Hall of Famer Ron Francis afterward. ''I actually was very calm, so it was kind of surreal, kind of fun.''

Material from wire services and team online media was used in this report.




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