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Lightning snap slide by beating Hurricanes

by Lonnie Herman

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning snapped their five-game home losing streak with some help from a couple of rookies.

Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat scored their first National Hockey League goals and goaltender Mathieu Garon won for the third time this season -- all against Carolina -- as the Lightning beat the Hurricanes 4-2 on Saturday night.

Johnson opened the scoring for Tampa Bay (12-15-1) at 10:54 of the opening period when he found himself with the puck and time and space in the faceoff circle to the right of goaltender Justin Peters. His perfect snap shot beat the goaltender high to the glove side. Alex Killorn and Cory Conacher assisted. The goal broke a Lightning scoring drought that had reached 85:24.

"I was a little shocked when I saw how much space I had," Johnson said. "Killorn made a great play by putting the puck back down low. He and Conacher basically set that up for me. I just stayed there and somehow I got lost in all the confusion and was able to get some space. The defenseman went to Conacher and I couldn't pass up that shot and it went in.

"There were a lot of emotions going through me. I felt really good and happy. I didn't quite know what to do after. It's something I will always remember and I am pretty fortunate for it to happen."

Palat made it 2-0 when he scored his first career goal at 6:35 of the second period -- Sami Salo's shot from the blue line bounced off his skate and into the net. Johnson picked up an assist for his second point.

"The shot hit the defense and then hit my skate blade a little bit and went in," Palat said. "I didn't see the puck at all. I was lucky, but it happens. Sometimes you have a big chance and can't score but then you go to the net and try to screen the goalie and it just hits you and goes in. I'm happy for that."

Lightning coach Guy Boucher was also wearing a smile.

"I'm pleased with the result, but to be honest with you, we've been playing like this 14 of our last 16 games," Boucher said. "We just didn't get the result in the other games. It's supposed to turn out like this more often. It's good to be rewarded."

Playing Carolina was a good tonic for the Lightning after a desultory effort in Thursday's 2-0 home loss to the New York Islanders. The Lightning are now 3-0-0 against the Hurricanes this season, and Tampa Bay hasn't trailed in any of those games. Garon has all three wins and has stopped 88 of the 92 shots he's faced, including 21 of 22 in this game.

Eric Staal spoiled Garon's bid for a shutout at 6:21 of the final period when he took Alexander Semin's long pass in the neutral zone, came in alone and put the puck under Garon.

"Garon played really good; very solid," Boucher said. "He's been keeping us in games but lately something kept happening at the last second. It's great for him to be rewarded because he's been steady for us since day one."

Carolina leads the NHL in second-period goals, but the Hurricanes were outscored 2-0 in the middle 20 minutes.

After Palat made it 2-0, Nate Thompson scored his sixth goal of the season at 12:55 when he corralled a long cross-ice pass from B.J. Crombeen and broke in on Peters alone except for Hurricane forward Drayson Bowman draped across his back. Thompson broke to his right with a sharp move and backhanded the puck into the net. Matt Carle also was credited with an assist.

Teddy Purcell stretched the lead to 4-0 when a pass by Martin St. Louis sent him in on a breakaway. Purcell's backhander found the net for his fifth goal of the season and first since Feb 16, a stretch of 13 games.

Carolina [15-11-1] had two power-play opportunities but was held without a shot on both of them. The Hurricanes are in a 2-for-30 slump with the extra man.

"We played around with some new combinations on the power play and we'll keep going at it," Carolina coach Kirk Muller said.

Muller was not disappointed with his club's effort, only the result.

"I thought we played hard," Muller said. "Competition was high and we knew it would be a battle. We didn't get the first goal tonight. Sometimes you have to give the other team credit; they played a good game and it just wasn't our night."

One thing he and his team will have to figure out is a way to beat the Lightning. The teams meet twice more this season.

"They have been strong against us," Muller said. "They've done a good job shutting down our top guys, which hasn't happened much this year. They play us hard and play well against us. It's a challenge every time."

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