RALEIGH, N.C. — By the time the Lightning touched down Sunday night in Tampa, it had flown 9,560 miles to play 11 games in the first 19 days of the year, including eight road games in four time zones and a finishing stretch of five games in seven days.
"I can tell you," coach Jon Cooper said, "we were a tired team."
Except, it seemed, for goaltender Ben Bishop, who made a career-high and franchise-record 48 saves Sunday in a 5-3 victory over the Hurricanes at PNC Arena.
"Doesn't bother me at all," Bishop said of the workload. "I could keep playing. A win like that, you want to keep going."
The Lightning (29-16-5) needed every ounce of that energy as it was on its heels from the opening faceoff, allowing 17 shots in each period and a total of 51, a franchise record.
The reward is Tampa Bay feels pretty good about itself after finishing the grueling stretch 6-4-1 and, with 63 points, tied with the Bruins for first place in the Atlantic Division.
It also doesn't play again until Thursday at home against the Senators.
Rookie defenseman Mark Barberio got his first two NHL goals, for which he promised to cut off the shoulder-length hair he has been growing for two years.
Ondrej Palat, Teddy Purcell and Nikita Kucherov also scored, and the team blocked 28 shots with Matthew Carle getting six and Eric Brewer five.
But considering the shots allowed and the mental and puck-possession errors, Bishop, who improved to 24-6-4, had to be sharp.
"They're not all going to be Picassos," Cooper said. "People are going to wake up and look at the box score and say, 'How did they win that game?' ... Our goaltender bailed us out."
Compare that to Carolina goalies Justin Peters and Anton Khodobin, who between them allowed four goals among Tampa Bay's first 10 shots for a 4-0 lead 24 seconds into the second period.
"It wasn't just the saves," Barberio said of Bishop. "It was coming out, playing the puck, especially with their forecheck. He was huge out there."
Especially in the third period, during which the Lightning was outshot 17-5. With 2:18 left, Bishop, fighting through a jumble of bodies, got just enough glove on Alexander Semin's in-close shot to deflect it off the crossbar and preserve the two-goal lead.
"We were a little off," captain Marty St. Louis said.
"When you're a little tired, it affects your brain."
"It will be nice," Bishop finally admitted, "to get a couple of days off."
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Barberio 1 (Killorn, Palat), 6:09 (pp). 2, Tampa Bay, Palat 10 (St. Louis, Johnson), 7:32. 3, Tampa Bay, Kucherov 8 (Pyatt, Malone), 15:07. Penalties—Nash, Car (tripping), 4:42; Brewer, TB (cross-checking), 10:27; Tampa Bay bench, served by Purcell (too many men), 16:49.
Second Period—4, Tampa Bay, Purcell 10 (Gudas, Carle), :24. 5, Carolina, Semin 9 (E.Staal), 1:46 (pp). 6, Carolina, E.Staal 11, 5:40. 7, Tampa Bay, Barberio 2 (Brewer, Palat), 8:12. Penalties—Barberio, TB (slashing), 1:15; Sekera, Car (hooking), 16:07.
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Third Period—8, Carolina, Hainsey 4 (Liles, Tlusty), 6:14. Penalties—Brewer, TB (hooking), 2:23; St. Louis, TB (hooking), 19:34. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 8-11-5—24. Carolina 17-17-17—51. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 1 of 2; Carolina 1 of 5. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Bishop 24-6-4 (51 shots-48 saves). Carolina, Peters 7-10-4 (7-4), Khudobin (15:07 first, 17-15). A—16,760 (18,680).Referees—Chris Rooney, Ghislain Hebert. Linesmen—Jay Sharrers, Anthony Sericolo.