LIGHTNING (18-19-10) at HURRICANES (14-26-7)
Lightning 5-4-1; Hurricanes 5-4-1
This is the fourth of six meetings. On Oct. 6, the Lightning lost in Carolina for the seventh straight time after Sergei Samsonov's game-deciding shootout goal gave the Hurricanes a 2-1 win. Jussi Jokinen
also scored and Cam Ward
earned the win in net. Four nights later, Ryan Malone
gave Tampa Bay revenge with a hat trick en route to a 5-2 win. The Lightning broke a 12-game losing streak. They last met on Nov. 21, a 3-1 home win for Carolina. Jokinen scored the winner, and Tuomo Ruutu
and Chad LaRose
had goals to give the Hurricanes their third win in four games. Manny Legace made 20 saves for the win.
The two teams at the bottom of the Southeast Division are also among the bottom five of the League standings, and both are in serious danger of missing the playoffs. Each team enters Monday with five wins in the last 10 games, but both need to maintain sustained hot stretches to pull back into contention. The Hurricanes, who reached the Eastern Conference Finals last season, are 15 points behind the Islanders for the eighth and final playoff berth, while the Lightning, who haven't played in the postseason since 2006-07, are four points out.
This is the middle game of a three-game road trip that began with a 5-2 loss at Florida on Saturday. Alex Tanguay and Andrej Meszaros scored for Tampa Bay.
Lightning starting goalie Antero Niittymaki allowed 5 goals on 18 shots through two periods. He was replaced in the third period by Dustin Tokarski
, who made five saves in his NHL debut.
"I couldn't stop the puck," Niittymaki told the Tampa Tribune. "That's why we lost. These are four-point games and we need better goaltending than that."
Tanguay's goal was the 200th of his NHL career. On the goal, Vincent Lecavalier
earned his 400th career assist.
Coach Rick Tocchet said starting goalie Mike Smith, still recovering from a strained neck, is unlikely to play Monday at Carolina.
Carolina is wrapping up a two-game homestand that began with a 5-3 loss against Atlanta on Saturday. With the score tied 1-1 midway through the second period, Carolina's Eric Staal
was stopped on a penalty shot by goalie Ondrej Pavelec.
"It was 1-1, and if they score a goal, it could be tough," Pavelec said. "He tried to shoot it 5-hole, and it hit my stick. It was a big save."
The Thrashers held a 3-1 lead at the start of the third period but the Canes battled back to tie the score on goals 70 seconds apart from Jokinen, his second of the game, and Ray Whitney. Ilya Kovalchuk put Atlanta ahead for good with a little over 10 minutes remaining in regulation. He caught defenseman Joni Pitkanen
on his heels and took a wrist shot near the left circle, and the puck cleanly beat Ward to the glove side. It came 44 seconds after Whitney's tying goal.
"It was 3-on-3 on the right, and we can't allow that guy that much room to get that shot off," coach Paul Maurice said. "It wasn't a bomb, but he has one of the best shots in the league, and he picks his spots."
For the Lightning, Lecavalier has a goal and 4 assists in three games, Tanguay has a goal and 3 assists in three games, and Jeff Halpern has 2 goals and an assist in three games. For the Hurricanes, Brandon Sutter
has a goal and 2 assists in four games, and Jiri Tlusty
has 3 assists in four games.
For the Lightning, Todd Fedoruk (lower body) is on injured reserve and Matt Smaby (upper body) and Smith (strained neck) are day-to-day. For the Hurricanes, Casey Borer (neck), Joe Corvo (leg), Scott Walker (shoulder), and LaRose (lower-body) are on injured reserve, and Ruutu (upper body), Samsonov (upper body), and Erik Cole (upper body) are day-to-day.
Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis
currently holds the sixth-longest active consecutive games played streak in the NHL at 356 games. … St. Louis has two 11-game point streaks this season. … Malone and Steven Stamkos
of the Lighting are fourth in the NHL among teammates in goals with 44. … Ward is one win shy of tying the Carolina franchise record for wins (Arturs Irbe, 130).
"We'll battle as long as we have a chance to get into the playoffs, but we need a lot of wins here soon," Jokinen said.