On an evening in which Tampa Bay Lightning founder Phil Esposito was honored with the unveiling of a bronze statue the Lightning’s future leader, Steven Stamkos, powered the Bolts past the Carolina Hurricanes 5-2.
Stamkos got the scoring started about three minutes in, roofing a Martin St. Louis rebound past Canes goaltender Cam Ward. Carolina scored late in the first on the power play when a shot by 19 year old rookie Justin Faulk snuck past Bolts goaltender Mathieu Garon.
In the second period Carolina pushed the pace and took the lead early on a power play goal by Jay Harrison. Late in the second, with the Lightning beginning to generate more pressure, they were rewarded, as Stamkos scored his second goal of the night and league-leading 25th goal of the season just minutes before the second intermission.
The Lightning came out buzzing in period 3 and, with 1:58 remaining on a Carolina penalty, they wasted no time cashing in as Stamkos scored, ripping a shot from the left point over the shoulder of Ward, for his league-leading 26th goal and his 5th career hat trick. Just a few minutes later Teddy Purcell, who has been quiet for much of this season, ripped a shot past Ward to make it 4-2 Lightning. A bit later Steve Downie scored, making it 5-2 Lightning.
The Bolts added a 6th goal, this one by Dominic Moore, but it was taken back due to goaltender interference.
The Lightning, who just finished a very successful 3-0-0 homestand, will look to do the same on the road as they begin 2012 with a week-long roadtrip, beginning this Tuesday night in Toronto, before heading back home to face the 2011 Western Conference Champion, Vancouver Canucks, January 10th.