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Hurricanes down Lightning 5-2

by Lonnie Herman
TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning keep digging themselves into holes that they can't get out of.

For the second game in a row, the Lightning allowed an opponent to score on its second shot of the game. Tuomo Ruutu connected 3:27 into Thursday night's game, triggering a four-goal first period that powered the Carolina Hurricanes to a 5-2 victory.

Jiri Tlusty scored 1:14 after Ruutu's 15th goal of the season to put the Bolts in a 2-0 hole for the second time in three nights.

"I don't think we played a better period this year," said Tlusty, who followed Jay Harrison's goal at 15:10 with his second of the game 68 seconds later. "It was a great period."

Nate Thompson's breakaway goal at 14:36 cut the margin to 2-1 before Harrison's goal ended Mathieu Garon's night after he surrendered three goals on eight shots. Tlusty got his second of the night against Dwayne Roloson to give Carolina a 4-1 lead after 20 minutes.

Needless to say, Lightning coach Guy Boucher wasn't thrilled with what he saw.

"I would say this is the hardest one to take this year," Boucher said. "We always talk about work ethic first, attitude and then discipline. In the first period, we had none of those, so we don't deserve this game."

Carolina captain Eric Staal, who assisted on three of the four goals, felt Harrison's goal was the most important.

 "Whenever you can score after they score; that's big," Staal said. "That was a big goal that got us on the right track. We stayed within our game the rest of the way and we were rewarded with a good road win.

Teddy Purcell's eighth of the season at 2:49 of the second period cut the Lightning's deficit to two goals. Steven Stamkos got an assist on the goal, his 19th point in his past 13 games.

But unlike Tuesday's game against Vancouver, when the Lightning overcame a 4-2 third-period deficit to earn a point in a shootout loss, there was no comeback this time. Tim Brent made sure when he fired a blast from the left circle past Roloson with 6:19 remaining.

Cam Ward, given a rare early cushion, stopped 34 of 36 shots.

With the win, Carolina (15-23-7) moved out of the Eastern Conference cellar and within one point of Tampa Bay (17-21-4) at the bottom of the Southeast Division standings, though the 'Canes have played three more games.

"We get up for the big games against the big teams," Boucher said. "I don't think we're being very respectful to teams like Carolina, or anybody else that is a little bit lower in the standings than the top-three teams in the conference. We can't have that, period. We're not in a position to think that we're better than any other team."

The Hurricanes focused on containing the Lightning's big guns; they kept Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis off the scoresheet while limiting Stamkos to an assist and two shots on net.

"We talked a lot about competing and awareness in the game," Carolina coach Kirk Muller said. "I thought we did a good job against some of their good players. We did a good job in the right area and on the forecheck, and we moved the puck really well."

The loss was the fifth in a row for Tampa Bay, who closed out a brief two-game home stand 0-1-1 and head to Washington on Friday night, hoping to get off to a faster start.

"It's hard to come back," defenseman Pavel Kubina said. "We weren't ready for it. We didn't deserve any points tonight."
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