RALEIGH, N.C. — Lightning coach Guy Boucher was adamant Saturday that his main concern going into the game with the Hurricanes was to keep his players healthy.
The regular-season finale didn't mean anything in the standings, he noted. The playoffs against the Penguins start in a few days.
"So, we don't want any of our guys hurt," Boucher said.
Some gamesmanship, perhaps? Tampa Bay certainly didn't hold back in its 6-2 victory at the RBC Center, and Boucher didn't hold players out, as he said he might.
He was stingier in the way he rationed minutes. Even so, Tampa Bay (46-25-11), which won seven of its last eight games and tied the team record for wins in a season, worked hard to knock its division rivals out of the postseason. (Carolina's loss gave the Rangers the East's final spot.)
All that happened while digesting the news assistant coach Wayne Fleming is out indefinitely after being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor.
"I'm super proud of the guys," goaltender Mike Smith said. "It's a game that doesn't mean anything for us and is Game 7 for (Carolina) to get into the playoffs. But the guys came out right from the first shift and gave their all."
It wasn't just being a spoiler, though center Steven Stamkos admitted there was some of that.
Players said they wanted to tie the record for wins in a season. Boucher wanted to maintain the team's 20 percent power-play efficiency, which it did at 20.5. He wanted to stay in the league top 10 in penalty kill; check, after going 6-for-7.
Most important, though, was tuning up for the playoffs.
"We wanted to see where the team was at playing those type of games, playoff games," left wing Simon Gagne said.
What did he find out?
"It's good," Gagne said. "We got some good stuff going on. I think everybody is starting to be at their top."
Six Lightning players scored. Stamkos got his 45th goal and Vinny Lecavalier his 25th. Marty St. Louis scored his 31st and added two assists, and Smith made 42 saves as Carolina had a 44-35 shot advantage. The team blocked 21 shots and had 12 takeaways to the Hurricanes' three.
Right wing Steve Downie left the game in the third period after aggravating the high ankle sprain that has bothered him since December, though Boucher said he took the player out only as a precaution.
"It was a real team effort," Boucher said. "We played half the night on the penalty kill. They had all the chances in the world to come at us. We played a game that was against all odds and played well."
"This," St. Louis said, "was a playoff game."
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Moore 18 (Downie, Bergeron), 6:45. 2, Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 25 (St. Louis), 11:19. 3, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 45 (Purcell, Gagne), 13:17. Penalties—Pitkanen, Car (slashing), 4:29; Bergenheim, TB (holding), 8:03; Lecavalier, TB (cross-checking), 13:51; Lundin, TB (interference), 17:27.
Second Period—4, Tampa Bay, Clark 9 (Lecavalier, St. Louis), 10:53. 5, Carolina, Stillman 12 (E.Staal, Skinner), 13:31 (pp). Penalties—Moore, TB (interference), 12:19; Tyrell, TB (tripping), 12:23.
Third Period—6, Carolina, LaRose 16 (Bra.Sutter, McBain), 8:33. 7, Tampa Bay, Gagne 17 (Thompson), 17:44 (en). 8, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 31 (Purcell, Smith), 18:24 (en). Penalties—Kubina, TB (hooking), 5:25; Tyrell, TB (boarding), 15:44. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 18-10-7—35. Carolina 12-15-17—44. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 0 of 1; Carolina 1 of 7. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Smith 13-6-1 (44 shots-42 saves). Carolina, Ward 37-26-10 (33-29). A—17,805 (18,680). T—2:25.