RALEIGH, N.C. — The first thing Vinny Lecavalier said when asked about Tuesday night's game against the Hurricanes was he did not want to single himself out.
Too many teammates did too many good things.
"We all came out pretty hard," he said.
But in the Lightning's satisfying 4-1 victory at PNC Arena, it was difficult to overlook how the captain set a tone meant to set the team back on course after Monday's depressing loss to the Islanders.
So, there was Lecavalier, driving to the net, throwing checks and assisting on first-period goals by Tom Pyatt and Cory Conacher.
"And he was the first guy back defensively, too," coach Guy Boucher said. "Vinny set the tone for this team. He's doing terrific work as a captain. I asked him for that and he's been terrific."
Third-period goals by Keith Aulie and Ryan Malone secured the win. Though goaltender Mathieu Garon, in his words, "got away with a lot of mistakes," he made 35 saves as the Hurricanes had a 36-26 shot advantage, 15-7 in the third period.
Tampa Bay (2-1-0) also blocked 23 shots, including Eric Brewer's six and Matt Carle's five.
It was an important game for a team that last season was the league's second-worst on the road and yearns to be better, and the loss to the Islanders made Tuesday's game almost a must-win to restore confidence.
But the game was the home opener for the Hurricanes, who were thumped by the Panthers in their season opener.
"So, you knew they were going to be ready to play," Lecavalier said, and added, "We wanted to be physical and bring pucks to the net, things we didn't do for two periods (against the Islanders). We played good as a team. We had good opportunities and were patient. We weren't forcing things and it paid off."
It paid off 5:18 into the game when Lecavalier spun to hold the puck in the offensive zone and sent a floating backhand pass/shot toward the net that Pyatt smacked out of the air and past goalie Cam Ward.
It paid off with 8:24 left in the first when Lecavalier carried the puck off the end boards to the net. Ward stopped his in-close shot, but Conacher was there to convert the rebound.
"It's huge when he's doing the right things," Pyatt said. "He's such a big boy, when he takes the puck to the net we always seem to get a chance and that's what happened."
Lecavalier also had three hits, blocked a shot and won 13 of 24 faceoffs.
"This was a huge test for us," he said, "and we passed."
First—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—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—4, Tampa Bay, Aulie 1 (Mikkelson), 1:37. 5, Tampa Bay, Malone 1 (St. Louis, 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—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.