TAMPA — It was difficult for Lightning goaltender Anders Lindback to rouse any positive emotions Sunday night.
Tampa Bay had just fallen 3-2 to the Hurricanes in front of an announced sellout crowd of 19,204 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, and the goaltender was on the losing end.
"So I'm having a hard time feeling okay when we didn't win," he said.
Still, the game was positive for Lindback, who played for the first time since missing 13 games with a nasty high-ankle sprain.
Some of his 25 saves were spectacular and kept the Lightning (17-24-4) in the game, and he was not at fault on any of Carolina's three first-period goals that set the stage for Tampa Bay's sixth straight loss.
For a franchise pinning next season's hopes in net on the combination of Lindback and Ben Bishop, it was good for Lindback, in his first game for new coach Jon Cooper, to hold up his end.
And his ankle held up, too.
"I guess," Lindback said, "it's one of the better things I can say."
The problem was his teammates, who hung Lindback out to dry in the first period.
Alexander Semin scored 16 seconds into the game after Steven Stamkos was stripped of the puck behind the goal line by Eric Staal.
Jiri Tlusty scored when his pass deflected off the skate of Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman. And all Ryan Malone had to do was clear the puck from the crease after a Lindback save. Instead, Tlusty took it away and made it 3-0 with 1:14 left.
Cooper called Malone's gaffe "inexcusable," as is the Lightning falling behind by at least two goals in each game of its losing streak.
Goals by Stamkos, his 28th, and Marty St. Louis — whose two points gave him 55, one behind Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby for the league lead — made it 3-2 2:16 into the third period.
"They probably didn't want to be embarrassed," Cooper said of the comeback that included a 37-28 shot advantage, 16-4 in the third period. "We were clearly being embarrassed in the first period. … You don't want to do that in your home rink."
If not for Lindback — who had not played since March 20 and admitted feeling "a little off at times" — there would have been no chance for a comeback.
His sprawling save on Chad LaRose and lunging glove save on Jeff Skinner kept the score 3-0 in the second period. His stop of Skinner's breakaway in the third kept it 3-2.
"He played great," captain Vinny Lecavalier said.
"He battled hard and played really well for us," Hedman said.
If only Lindback's teammates had battled as hard for him.
First Period—1, Carolina, Semin 12 (E.Staal), :16. 2, Carolina, Tlusty 20 (Semin, Corvo), 10:45. 3, Carolina, Tlusty 21 (E.Staal, Semin), 18:46. Penalties—Panik, TB (goaltender interference), 8:40; Aulie, TB (slashing), 20:00.
Second Period—4, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 28 (Salo, St. Louis), 10:07 (pp). Penalties—Blanchard, Car, major (fighting), 2:29; Crombeen, TB, major (fighting), 2:29; Gudas, TB (clipping), 2:41; Harrison, Car (hooking), 9:23; Tlusty, Car (goaltender interference), 14:19.
Third Period—5, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 13 (Lecavalier), 2:16. Penalties—Labrie, TB (cross-checking), 17:22. Shots on Goal—Carolina 15-9-4—28. Tampa Bay 10-11-16—37. Power-play opportunities—Carolina 0 of 4; Tampa Bay 1 of 2. Goalies—Carolina, Ellis 5-8-1 (37 shots-35 saves). Tampa Bay, Lindback 10-8-1 (28-25).