TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- All that mattered to Lightning coach John Tortorella was
that his team won its fifth straight game.
He wasn't worried about Tampa Bay's sluggish play after a five-goal first
period or a near collapse by struggling goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin.
"Wins are tough to come by in this league. You take the two points and
go," Tortorella said Thursday night after a 5-4 victory over the Carolina
"The second period we hit the wall. ... It happens. The positive thing out
of it is we found a way to finish the game and get the two points."
Tampa Bay forward Martin St. Louis had the second hat trick of his career
and Dave Andreychuk got his 1,300th point.
St. Louis scored all three of his goals during the Lightning's five-goal
first period against goaltenders Kevin Weekes and Jamie Storr, matching the
three-goal performance the All-Star forward had against Carolina on Jan. 30,
Andreychuk scored the 622nd goal of his 22-year career in the period, making
him the 25th player in NHL history with 1,300 points. Brad Richards scored just
35 seconds into the game, and Carolina coach Peter Laviolette yanked Weekes
when St. Louis scored on Tampa Bay's second shot, less than three minutes
Storr wasn't much better at first, giving up two goals to St. Louis in a
three-minute span before Andreychuk got his ninth of the season on a power play
to give the Lightning a 5-1 lead.
It turned out that Khabibulin needed every bit of the cushion. Carolina
scored three straight goals, pulling to 5-4 on Josef Vasicek's shot from the
lower left circle with 10:23 remaining.
Carolina didn't take solace in making it close.
"It really doesn't even matter. It's a loss," Laviolette said.
"Am I supposed to, or are they supposed to say: `Well, good effort. Good
try. We fought hard.' Do you think we're in a position to do that? We're not in
any position to do that. We're in a position to come out fighting right off the
Pavel Brendl scored his first goal for Carolina since being recalled from
the minors to bolster the Hurricanes' offense. Ron Francis added a goal against
Khabibulin late in the first period, and Carolina trimmed its deficit to 5-3
when Erik Cole added a power-play goal with 1:22 left in the second.
Khabibulin stopped 20 shots in his first start since a 5-2 loss at Ottawa on
Jan. 6, the first game on Tampa Bay's road trip. The Lightning won the last
four, with John Grahame giving up one goal each in victories over Montreal, New
Jersey, Pittsburgh and the New York Rangers.
"He was OK," Tortorella said of Khabibulin. "A game like this, we knew it
was going to be a struggle. We knew it was going to be an interesting game."
After dominating the opening period, Tampa Bay managed just two shots in the
second and 11 in the third.
Laviolette pulled Weekes just 3:54 into the game, but the Hurricanes didn't
blame their poor start on the goaltender.
"That's what happens when we leave him hanging out to dry," Cole said.
"No goalie is going to stop the two goals that went in."