RALEIGH, N.C. — The happiest person in the RBC Center on Friday night probably was Jussi Jokinen.
The former Lightning forward not only scored the winner in the Hurricanes' 4-1 stomping of Tampa Bay, he got a good look at the wreckage he left behind.
"It's tough with first-year owners and a first-year GM," said Jokinen, traded Feb. 7 for defenseman Josef Melichar, minor-league forward Wade Brookbank and a fourth-round draft pick. "They're trying to do as good a job as they can, so I don't have too much negative to say."
Plenty of negatives were on the ice.
Tampa Bay (19-28-12) managed only 13 shots, a season low and two from the franchise record, while losing its fourth straight. Carolina, with 41 shots, was the third straight opponent to reach at least 40.
"When it rains, it pours," right wing Marty St. Louis said.
Consider, then, Tampa Bay's perfect storm.
First, its makeshift defense is completely overmatched. Paul Ranger and Andrej Meszaros are done with shoulder injuries. Marek Malik is sidelined with an ankle injury. Lukas Krajicek was a late scratch with a lower-body injury, and rookie Matt Smaby has a sore right foot.
Left wing David Koci filled in, but for the most part, the Lightning rotated just five on D, including rookie Ty Wishart.
Add that the top two goaltenders are out, the looming March 4 trade deadline and 23 remaining games with no postseason hope, and, well, you get the idea.
"It absolutely (stinks) to be out of the playoffs," center Jeff Halpern said. "There's always something to play for; the lack of competitiveness and wanting to win should never change. But being out of the playoffs is not a lot of fun."
Also not fun: Goalie Mike McKenna, who otherwise played well, allowed a bad stick-side goal 8:30 into the game after Eric Staal undressed defenseman Steve Eminger.
Jokinen's first goal in seven games with Carolina made it 2-1 with 5:30 left in the second period after Melichar's giveaway to Rod Brind'Amour in the defensive slot.
And minor penalties to Koci, Smaby and Halpern in 67 seconds led to two five-on-three goals in 39 seconds by Joe Corvo to make it 4-1 4:17 into the third.
"You put it in your memory bank, how bad it feels to be pounded like that," coach Rick Tocchet said. "Maybe this summer you work a little harder. Maybe in practice you work a little harder, I don't know. But there are still guys in there who are trying."
Still, Halpern said, "It's a miserable feeling not playing for the right reasons."
Damian Cristodero can be reached at email@example.com.
First Period—1, Carolina, Staal 27 (Samsonov, Ruutu), 8:30. Penalties—Downie, TB, major (fighting), 8:34; Conboy, Car, major (fighting), 8:34; Gleason, Car (interference), 19:41.
Second Period—2, Tampa Bay, Prospal 14 (Halpern), 1:53. 3, Carolina, Jokinen 7 (Brind'Amour), 14:30. Penalty—Stamkos, TB (tripping), 4:08.
Third Period—4, Carolina, Corvo 10 (Whitney, Samsonov), 3:38 (pp). 5, Carolina, Corvo 11 (Whitney, Staal), 4:17 (pp). Penalties—Koci, TB (roughing), 2:04; Smaby, TB (cross-checking), 2:21; Halpern, TB (slashing), 3:11; Wallin, Car (slashing), 7:30; Corvo, Car (high-sticking), 9:11; Downie, TB (kneeing), 16:01; Eminger, TB, double minor (high-sticking), 18:37. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 1-8-4—13. Carolina 14-11-16—41. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 0 of 3; Carolina 2 of 6. Goalies—Tampa Bay, McKenna 2-3-1 (41 shots-37 saves). Carolina, Ward 24-19-3 (13-12). A—17,711 (18,680). T—2:24. Referees—Stephane Auger, Chris Rooney. Linesmen—Brian Mach, Jean Morin.