TAMPA — The Lightning were clinging to a one-goal lead midway through the third period Tuesday night when captain Steven Stamkos found himself on the wrong side of a questionable — and inevitably costly — call.
For the second straight game, Stamkos was called for goalie interference. And just like in the Lightning’s last game Saturday in Ottawa, Tampa Bay argued that Stamkos was pushed into the goaltender by an opposing player.
The penalty gave the Hurricanes their fifth power play of the night — one too many — setting the stage for Teuvo Teravainen’s tying score 9:56 into the third period. Before that goal, the Lightning penalty kill had killed off four Carolina power plays, including a zany 5-on-3 advantage early in the second period.
Combine that with a power play unit that went 0-for-4 and managed just one shot on goal in 7:58 of ice time, and the Lightning’s 2-1 overtime loss to the Hurricanes was decided by special teams play well before Martin Necas’ game-winning goal with 1:34 remaining in the extra session.
Stamkos argued with officials all the way to the penalty box, and replays showed that Carolina defenseman Ian Cole tied up Stamkos’ stick with his own and ran him into Hurricanes goaltender Frederik Andersen.
“I did not get an explanation,” Stamkos said. “I think it was just a bang-bang play and he didn’t see it. If (the official) saw it, he would have seen that I got pushed in. It’s frustrating because it’s a 1-0 game and they score on that power play and it gets them back in it. At the same time, stuff happens fast and calls aren’t always going to go your way. But in my mind, anyways, I think that’s what happened.”
Added Lightning coach Jon Cooper: “I think everyone saw what happened, but what are you going to do.”
In Saturday’s win in Ottawa, a Lightning goal was negated when officials ruled that Stamkos pushed a Senators player into the goaltender. But Stamkos clearly was being run into from behind by another Ottawa player. Because it was a negated goal call, it could be reviewed. Tuesday’s could not.
Against the Hurricanes (10-1-0), penalties by Jan Rutta and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare gave Carolina a 5-on-3 power play for 1:35 in the second period of a scoreless game.
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The Lightning already were without one of their top penalty killers, defenseman Erik Cernak, who left the game after taking a shot on his left arm in the first period. Then during the 5-on-3, defenseman Ryan McDonagh was stung by a blocked shot that hit him in the back, hobbling him. And while making a save on Teravainen, Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy lost his left skate blade and was forced to play through a minute of action from his knees while waiting for a whistle.
The Lightning seemed energized by that effort and scored the first goal shortly after on a one-timer by Stamkos nine minutes into the second.
“I think it definitely gave the teams some jump,” McDonagh said of the 5-on-3 kill. “We were able to get on the forecheck a little bit more, got some offensive looks. Anytime you can get through something like that, it gives you momentum. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a skate blade come off like that. An incredible job by Vasy to gut that one out and we found a way to kill it off.”
The Lightning power play not only had just one shot on goal in four opportunities, but fought to establish zone time against a quick-paced Carolina team. Over their past nine games, the Lightning power play is 3-for-29.
“These are games where we usually won because of our power play in the past, and there have been times this year where we’re in these tight games where our goalie gives us as a chance, our penalty kill gives us a chance and the PP has a chance to get an extra point and it just hasn’t,” Stamkos said. “And that’s the frustrating part because I think we’ve left some points out there.”
The Lightning were outshot 31-18 and were on the wrong side of a 12-3 shot differential in the first period. They went the final 11:09 of the first without a shot on goal. But in 5-on-5 play, that trailed just 17-15 in shots.
The Lightning (6-3-3) have earned points in each of their last six games. going 4-0-2.
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