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Lightning get back to basics, break through against Carolina

After losing three of four, Tampa Bay rises to the challenge of beating the Hurricanes.
Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ondrej Palat reacts after his goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during the third period in Raleigh, N.C.
Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ondrej Palat reacts after his goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during the third period in Raleigh, N.C. [ GERRY BROOME | Associated Press ]
Published Feb. 23
Updated Feb. 23

The Lightning mostly did everything right after one period against the Hurricanes on Monday night. They showed a renewed dedication to putting the puck on net and were sound defensively.

While they took control of the opening period at Carolina, they still went into the first intermission trailing by a goal. That’s where it went wrong in their previous meeting with the Hurricanes. Overwhelmed by a scoring drought and the potential for a low-scoring contest, they panicked and got out of their game plan.

But Monday night, the Lightning weren’t going to let that happen again. They rebounded, put faith in their system and were rewarded with a 4-2 win.

After having lost three of their past four games, the Lightning (11-4-1) earned a much-needed win over the Hurricanes, who had held Tampa Bay scoreless in their first two meetings this season.

“We’re a proud group and we’re not happy when we lose three out of four games going into tonight and we talked about that the last few days,” said defenseman Victor Hedman, who scored a second-period goal. “This is a challenge, we’re gonna see what we made of. Are we gonna go out there and try and chase and then change what we do or are we going stick to what we do well and do it to a tee?”

The Lightning went back to basics. Coach Jon Cooper reshuffled his forward line combinations. Entering the game, the Lightning placed an emphasis on shooting more. The longer they went without scoring in their last outing against Carolina, the more they turned down looks at the net trying to find a better shot, and the frustration mounted with the goose eggs.

Tampa Bay came out shooting Monday, peppering Carolina goaltender James Reimer with shots and bodies in the crease. Despite outshooting Carolina 11-2 out of the gate, they trailed after one on Jesper Fast’s rebound goal with 6:33 left in the opening period.

“This can be a cruel game,” Cooper said. “I thought we were the better team in the first period and you come out of that down one. We had to believe in what we were doing and that we would have a chance to come back. If we’re playing the same way and, and we did. And that was the big talk in between the first and the second was keep playing the same way and you’ll be rewarded and they were.”

The scoring drought against Carolina ended 2:26 into the second period with Steven Stamkos’ one-timer from just above the left circle for Tampa Bay’s first power-play goal in its last eight man advantages.

That score — the Lightning’s first goal against the Hurricanes in nine periods, a stretch that lasted nearly 180 minutes dating to last season — broke the ice and provided a spark.

Hedman put the Lightning up 2-1 less than five minutes later, charging the net and rifling a wrister from the left circle that clanked off the top bar and in. Fast netted his second goal with 45 seconds left in the period on the power play to tie.

Ondrej Palat’s eventual game-winning goal 8:04 into the third was the ultimate reward for attacking the net. He retrieved a blocked puck and shot twice into the crease. He eventually got a bounce as the puck deflected off Reimer and Carolina defenseman Brady Skjei’s skate and into the net.

“You can’t look for that perfect play all the time,” Hedman said. “You’ve got to let it develop, you’ve got to be able to put pucks on net and that’s when things are going to open up. I thought we had some good moment, both off the rush and in the zone and we got rewarded.”

Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy withstood a late Carolina charge, making 17 of his 34 saves in the third period, and Alex Killorn netted an empty-net goal with 40 seconds remaining.

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.

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