Full house watches Canes get struck by Lightning in opener
A sellout crowd of 18,680 in PNC Arena came ready to cheer the Carolina Hurricanes as they opened their home season Tuesday night. By the end, only a few disheartened fans remained.
The Tampa Bay Lightning spoiled the mood, jumping ahead early and claiming a 4-1 win to drop the Hurricanes to 0-2.
Normally, two straight losses wouldn’t be too much cause for concern. But in a lockout-shortened 48-game season, Carolina can’t afford to dig itself too deep a hole.
“Everyone knows it’s a short season and these points are crucial,” said Jeff Skinner, who scored the Hurricanes’ goal in the second period. “But we just have to stick with it and not panic and change our game. Because I think 5-on-5 we keep getting better and if we keep putting that many pucks on net and that quality of scoring chances, things are going to go well for us.”
Two high-profile additions — Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin — recorded their first points as Hurricanes by assisting Skinner’s power-play goal. Their presence in Carolina, and the Hurricanes’ strong close under coach Kirk Muller last season, provided hope that this team would become a playoff contender this year.
But the opener this season provided a similar scoreline to 2012, when Tampa Bay won 5-1 to spoil Carolina’s home opener. The Lightning have now won six straight games in Raleigh and have scored at least four goals in 10 of their last 14 meetings with the Hurricanes.
“There’s some good things in our game,” Carolina captain Eric Staal said. “But there’s some things where I think we just need to… get down and be gritty and compete a little bit more in 1-on-1 battles in the corners and make it difficult for teams to get to our net. We clear that up and we’ll be fine — we have enough offense. We had some good looks and just didn’t capitalize enough but that will come.”
Carolina had a 36-26 edge in shots, but once again was undone by a poor start. After allowing four first-period goals in the season opener against Florida, Carolina was down 2-0 after 12 minutes against the Lightning (2-1).
Following a turnover by Jussi Jokinen, who played 66 games with Tampa Bay from 2007-09, Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier flipped the puck in from the high boards, which was backhanded out of the air by Tom Pyatt 5:18 into the game.
Lecavalier took advantage of another Carolina turnover, this one from behind the Hurricanes net, to double Tampa Bay’s lead. His wraparound was stopped by Cam Ward (22 saves), but Cory Conacher scored on the rebound with 8:24 left in the period.
Counting his performance against Florida, when Ward was pulled after the first period, Carolina’s normally steady netminder had allowed six goals on the first 18 shots he faced.
Ward and his teammates settled down after the first period, and quickly got back into the game. Semin hit the inside of the post early in the second period, but Carolina finally got one past Mathieu Garon (35 saves) thanks to two Lightning penalties that gave the Hurricanes a 5-on-3 for 14 seconds.
Just as the first penalty was expiring, Skinner roofed the puck on his backhand before falling to the ice. It was the first power play goal for Carolina, which went 0 for 6 against Florida. But there wouldn’t be another one, and Tampa Bay put the Hurricanes away early in the third period.
Carolina forwards Chad LaRose and Skinner both went to defend the same man, leaving Lightning defenseman Keith Aulie alone to skate in from the left side. Aulie beat Ward shortside for his third career goal 1:37 into the period.
Tampa Bay finished Carolina off midway through the period on the power play, when Ryan Malone poked in a rebound.
The Lightning were coming off a 4-3 loss at the Islanders Monday night.
“That’s their third game, and the easy thing to say is well they played yesterday, they should be the tired club,” Muller said. “But also early in the season you get a couple games under your belt, you start to get more chemistry, you get used to the game plan.”
The Hurricanes have yet to be outshot in a period, but only have two goals to show for it.
“We just have to stay the course,” Muller said. “I think there were some good things, believe it or not. They just have to believe in each other and push each other.”
NOTES – The Hurricanes had nine sellouts in 41 games last season and averaged 16,042 fans. … Carolina has now scored one goal in four straight home openers, all losses. … Former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher was in attendance as his son-in-law, bruising winger Kevin Westgarth, was making his Hurricanes debut.
Lightning 4, Hurricanes 1
Tampa Bay 2 0 2—4
Carolina 0 1 0—1
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Pyatt 1 (Lecavalier, Carle), 5:18. 2, Tampa Bay, Conacher 2 (Lecavalier, Purcell), 11:36. Penalties—Crombeen, TB (boarding), 13:02; J.Staal, Car (tripping), 17:09.
Second Period—3, Carolina, Skinner 1 (J.Staal, Semin), 3:35 (pp). Penalties—Conacher, TB (boarding), 1:29; Malone, TB (boarding), 3:15; Bowman, Car (hooking), 9:14; Carle, TB (tripping), 11:10; Jokinen, Car (interference), 16:28.
Third Period—4, Tampa Bay, Aulie 1 (Mikkelson), 1:37. 5, Tampa Bay, Malone 1 (Stamkos, Salo), 9:57 (pp). Penalties—Tyrell, TB (holding stick), 1:56; Brent, Car (tripping), 1:56; LaRose, Car (interference), 4:13; Jokinen, Car (hooking), 9:36; Lecavalier, TB (delay of game), 12:28; Hall, TB (elbowing), 13:20; E.Staal, Car (roughing), 13:20; E.Staal, Car (slashing), 19:40.
Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 8-11-7—26. Carolina 8-13-15—36. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 1 of 6; Carolina 1 of 5. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Garon 1-0-0 (36 shots-35 saves). Carolina, Ward 0-2-0 (26-22).
A—18,680 (18,680). T—2:36.
Referees—Steve Kozari, Francois St. Laurent. Linesmen—Mark Shewchyk, Jonny Murray.