TAMPA -- The Carolina Hurricanes got two goals from Jiri Tlusty and three points from Alexander Semin as they parlayed three first-period goals into a 3-2 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Anders Lindback allowed three goals on 15 shots in the first 20 minutes, but in truth, he got very little support from his teammates.
It only took 16 seconds and one turnover for Carolina to jump into an early lead.
Eric Staal took the puck away from Steven Stamkos behind the Lightning’s goal line and Staal found Semin in the left faceoff circle as the latter scored his 12th goal of the season.
The goal came on the first shot that Lindback faced in his return after missing 13 games with an ankle injury.
The Hurricanes made it 2-0 at 10:45 of the first when Tlusty’s backdoor pass attempt hit Victor Hedman’s skate and slipped through Lindback’s pads. Semin and Joe Corvo got the assists.
The Lightning continued to have difficulties clearing the puck from their own end, and another miscue led to Tlusty’s second goal of the game and Carolina’s third of the period. After Lindback got his right pad on a shot from the slot, the rebound bounced off Ryan Malone in front of the net and right to Tlusty. Semin and Eric Staal assisted. The goal was Tlusty’s 21st of the season.
Semin collected a point on all three of Carolina’s first-period goals and Eric Staal had two assists.
“We had a tough game last night [a 5-3 loss in Philadelphia],” Carolina coach Kirk Muller said. “We got off track and we wanted to get back on track and do the right things tonight and we did.”
Hurricanes goaltender Dan Ellis stopped 34 shots as he collected his fifth win of the season.
“We came out hard and that was the difference in the first period,” Tlusty said. “We could have had a better third, but sometimes you need saves like Ellis made in the net tonight. He was amazing. That what it is, you’re a team and everyone has to do his job and Ellis did his job tonight.”
Stamkos cut into the Carolina lead when he blasted a one-timer from his favorite perch, the left faceoff circle, on a power play with Jay Harrison in the penalty box for hooking. The goal was No. 28 for Stamkos and moved him to within two of Alex Ovechkin for the NHL lead.
Ellis, who was a member of the Lightning previously (2010-11), was more than willing to give Stamkos his due.
“I remember when I played here, I knew where Stamkos’ shot was coming from and where it was going and I still couldn’t stop it,” Ellis said. “He just found a little hole. Honestly, I thought I did stop it. I got a good piece of it on my stick, but he just found a little bit of a hole and that’s your world-class, best scorer in the League.”
Ellis had faced Tampa Bay twice previously this season, losing both times and allowing five goals in each game. This time, he came out on top.
“Beating a team I usually get murdered by?” Ellis said. “I’ve gotten lit up by them forever. They have so much firepower.”
Martin St. Louis picked up his 42nd assist of the season and moved into the lead in that department, one ahead of the injured Sidney Crosby. St. Louis added his 13thgoal of the season at 2:16 of the third period, assisted by Vincent Lecavalier.
Tampa Bay outshot the Hurricanes 16-4 as they tried to find the tying goal in the final period. The furious but futile comeback that Tampa Bay staged in the third period was a matter of self-respect, Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.
“I think there is a lot of pride in the room,” Cooper said. “They are competitors and they don’t want to get embarrassed and they were clearly embarrassed in the first period.”
He certainly wasn’t pointing any fingers at Lindback for the distressing opening period.
“Lindback made some big saves to keep this game from getting out of hand and gave us a chance to come back,” Cooper said. “Look at the goals -- the first was a bad turnover and you put the puck on a goal scorer’s stick 10 feet from the net, he’s got a pretty good chance of getting it in, and the second goes off a skate on a pass. The third one was inexcusable. We had that on our stick and that has to be cleared. You can’t fault him too much.”
For his part, Lindback was wondering where the Lightning’s third period effort had been up to that point.
“There were a couple of fluky goals, but that’s how the game goes and it’s my job to stop them,” Lindback said. “Fortunately, we managed to come back and we played really well in the third and I wish we could just play like that more often. We’d be winning a lot.”
The win was the first of the season for Carolina (18-24-3) against Tampa Bay (17-24-4) in five attempts and extended the Lightning’s losing streak to six games, their longest skid of the season.
Tim Gleason left the ice late in the third period after being cross-checked by Pierre-Cedric Labrie from the front and B.J. Crombeen from behind.