TAMPA — The sentiments were so similar around the Lightning locker room Saturday night, it sounded like there was an echo.
"Disheartening," wing Mark Recchi said of the 4-3 overtime loss to the Hurricanes.
"Disheartening," goalie Mike Smith said of giving up four unanswered goals.
"Disappointing," center Vinny Lecavalier said of getting outshot 46-29 in the game and 43-18 in the final 21/2 periods.
But after a game in which 18,552 showed up at the St. Pete Times Forum despite a Rays playoff game 20 miles away at the Trop and the Florida football team on TV against LSU, coach Barry Melrose said it best: "We're very sorry we didn't play better for them."
The Lightning (0-2-1) got a point for the regulation tie, but after two season-opening losses to the Rangers in Prague and a shakeup in the top two lines, more was expected.
As Smith said, "I don't play for points. I play for wins."
Smith did his part, making 42 saves in a second straight solid effort. But he had little chance on Eric Staal's winner with 23.6 seconds left in the extra period after a turnover by defenseman Matt Carle in the offensive zone led to a two-on-one.
The goal, Staal's second of the game, capped the Hurricanes' comeback and a tough game for Carle, who played 30:10 and had three shots but was in the penalty box for two Carolina goals.
"No excuses," Carle said. "You have to learn from it."
Recchi scored his first goal of the season, and after defenseman Janne Niskala scored the first of his career on the power play with 9:33 left in the first period, Tampa Bay held an 11-3 shot advantage.
Lecavalier's first goal on a five-on-three power play made it 3-0 9:01 into the second period.
But Rod Brind'Amour scored on the power play with 8.7 left in the second, and Matt Cullen scored with a man advantage 1:56 into the third. Staal's goal exactly eight minutes later, a deflection off Lecavalier's stick, tied it.
Melrose, who swapped left wings Vinny Prospal and Ryan Malone on the top two lines, said it wasn't so much what Carolina did as what Tampa Bay didn't.
"We had a two-goal lead in the third period, and we stopped working," Melrose said. "We stopped doing the things we did in the first two periods."
The high point was killing 2:58 of penalty time, including 1:02 of a five-on-three, late in the second period. But Carle was called for holding with 21.5 seconds left, and Brind'Amour scored 13 seconds later.
Carle was called for hooking 51 seconds into the third period, leading to Cullen's rebound goal after the puck bounced out of Smith's glove.
Carle said both penalties were legitimate, and he said he failed to get the puck deep in the overtime when three Hurricanes collapsed on him near the Carolina blue line and forced the turnover that led to the winning goal.
But Melrose came to Carle's defense:
"Matty made a mistake, but he's trying to do something. He was trying to make a play, and we should have had men back. I have no problem with how Matty Carle played."
As for the team as a whole, "when you take a two-goal lead into the third period," Melrose said, "that should be enough."
Damian Cristodero can be reached at email@example.com.
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Recchi 1 (Carle, Jokinen), 8:20. 2, Tampa Bay, Niskala 1 (Prospal, Heward), 10:27 (pp). Penalties—Malone, TB (slashing), :28; Brookbank, Car (roughing), 8:35; Wallin, Car (interference), 13:46; Ruutu, Car (high-sticking), 17:00; Niskala, TB (holding), 17:17; Lecavalier, TB (interference), 19:55.
Second Period—3, Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 1 (St. Louis, Heward), 9:01 (pp). 4, Carolina, Brind'Amour 2 (Pitkanen, Whitney), 19:51 (pp). Penalties—Meszaros, TB (tripping), 6:19; Staal, Car (slashing), 7:06; Leighton, Car, served by LaRose (tripping), 8:53; Wallin, Car (slashing), 10:28; Malone, TB (tripping), 11:25; Malone, TB (hooking), 16:27; Heward, TB (hooking), 17:25; Carle, TB (holding), 19:38.
Third Period—5, Carolina, Cullen 2 (Brind'Amour, Pitkanen), 1:56 (pp). 6, Carolina, Staal 1 (Seidenberg, Ruutu), 9:56. Penalties—Carle, TB (hooking), :51; Samsonov, Car (delay of game), 18:00.
Overtime—7, Carolina, Staal 2 (Whitney), 4:36. Penalties—None. Shots on Goal—Carolina 12-9-20-5—46. Tampa Bay 16-9-2-2—29. Power-play opportunities—Carolina 2 of 9; Tampa Bay 2 of 7. Goalies—Carolina, Leighton 1-0-0 (29 shots-26 saves). Tampa Bay, M.Smith 0-1-1 (46-42). A—18,552 (19,758).