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Lightning conclude season series with Hurricanes

by Magalie Lafreni?re
HURRICANES (33-36-10) at LIGHTNING (31-35-12)

Last 10: Carolina 5-3-2; Tampa Bay 3-7-0

Season series: This is the sixth and final game of the season between the divisional rivals. The Lightning have a 3-2 lead in the series with a 5-2 win on Oct. 10, a 3-2 win on Jan. 18, and a 3-2 overtime victory on March 23. The Hurricanes won the first meeting of the season, a 2-1 shootout win on Oct 6, and they took a 3-1 victory on Nov. 21. In their most recent matchup, Tampa's Martin St. Louis scored the OT winner just 29 seconds into the extra period, recording his second goal of the night.

Big story: It's down to playing for pride as both the Lightning and Hurricanes have been officially eliminated from the playoffs. The Bolts were eliminated on Saturday with the Bruins' 2-1 overtime victory over the Maple Leafs, while the 'Canes' playoff chances came to an end on Saturday with their loss to the Devils and the Bruins' win. Tampa Bay has four games remaining in this last week of the regular season, while Carolina has three. This will also be the 'Canes' final divisional matchup.
Team Scope:

While the Hurricanes still had a glimmer of hope after their 4-3 shootout loss to the Senators last Thursday, it quickly faded as they were shut out 4-0 by the Devils Saturday. It was the second time they were blanked at home in eight days. New Jersey got two goals in the first and another two in third, while the Carolina only managed 14 shots in the first two periods. Cam Ward, in his third game back from injury, made 25 saves. The goaltender had won his previous two starts.

"We were all ready for the game, we were prepared," center Zach Boychuk said. "It was just that early goal that kind of deflated us a bit and we weren't able to get back at the pace we needed to and they were (pushing) hard. They've got a lot of veteran guys over there and we're a young team, so we can definitely learn from what they were doing and take that into next year."

After shutting out the Penguins in a 2-0 win on Wednesday, the Lightning had a tough go of things on Friday as the Rangers scored twice in the first four minutes of the game, both goals slipping through in span of 25 seconds. They allowed four goals on just seven shots in that first period and were booed of the ice. Mike Smith was pulled after the first period in favor or Antero Niittymaki, but the Blueshirts would score one more in the third to shut out the Bolts by a 5-0 score.

"It's hard to gauge a game when it's boom boom boom and there's three goals right away," said coach Rick Tocchet. "We're not a team that can recover from soft goals. When it's boom boom boom like that there's not much you can do."
Who's hot:
Brandon Sutter had three goals in the previous three games before facing the Devils, while left wing Jussi Jokinen had two goals and two assists in his previous three. … St. Louis had three assists in his previous two games before facing the Rangers, while defenseman Kurtis Foster was riding a four-game points streak before the Rangers came to town.

Injury report: Right wing Tuomo Ruutu (right shoulder surgery) and defenseman Tim Gleason (broken right foot) are expected to miss the remainder of the season, while defenseman Alexandre Picard (upper body) is also out. … Bolts defensemen Matt Smaby (back spasms), Victor Hedman (hip flexor), David Hale (ankle/foot) and Matt Walker (lower body) and left wing Ryan Malone (arthroscopic left knee surgery/upper body) are all questionable for Tuesday.

The Lightning did experience a scary moment on Friday when Steve Downie was jammed with the butt end of a stick going into the boards with Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi and fell to the ice gasping for air. The right wing was able to leave the ice without a stretcher, went to Tampa General Hospital to rule out any internal injuries and was back on the ice for the opening faceoff of the third period.

"It's a good story. Hopefully it's something that you can build around, that kind of an attitude," Tocchet said to The Tampa Tribune. "Here's a game we are losing (4-0 at the time) and he easily could have packed it in, but he wanted to come out and play. It shows a lot, and hopefully some other guys take note.''

Stat pack:
Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier and Hurricanes captain Eric Staal both lead their teams in shots with 282 and 262 respectively, but both have had sub-par seasons with 67 and 61 points thus far.

Puck Drop:
"We'll want to finish on a strong note, even though it's difficult to know that you're not going to make the playoffs. You see fans tailgating on the way in and think about how much fun it would be." -- Carolina goaltender Cam Ward.

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