Tampa Bay Lightning Finish Back-To Back On Top Against Hurricanes

Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports /

The Tampa Bay Lightning battled back to finish off their back-to-back weekend series on a high note with a victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Tampa Bay Lightning knew they had a tough challenge ahead of them as they charged into the PNC Arena tonight to finish off their back-to-back weekend series against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Lightning got dealt a massive blow before puck drop today in Raleigh. The Tampa Bay Lightning announced they would be without right wing Nikita Kucherov tonight as he is now listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

As the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes are both battling for position in the Eastern Conference with the intention of putting themselves in a comfortable position when the postseason rolls around, it makes bringing home the victory in tonight’s battle that much more important. This is definitely not the kind of game you want your leading goal scorer to miss, but unfortunately, it is what it is for the Lightning tonight.

The Tampa Bay Lightning hit the ice with intensity in the first period of play, but unfortunately, for the third game in a row, the Lightning’s special teams has failed them on a much higher level. Carolina Hurricanes defenseman John-Michael Liles was sitting in the penalty box for Delay of Game when the Hurricanes would use the Lightning’s special teams problem against them.

Ultimately, it would be Hurricanes left wing Joakim Nordstrom who would blow the defense and offense alike to put the back past Lightning netminder Ben Bishop and into the back of the net. As we alluded to before, this is the third game in the row where the Tampa Bay Lightning has allowed a shorthanded goal. If the Tampa Bay Lightning want to remain relevant when April comes around, this is something they are going need to fix.

When the buzzer would sound to end the 1st period of play, there would be no clear dominating force. While the Hurricanes would lead the Lightning 1-0 on the scoreboard, these two Eastern Conference teams would each have six shots on goal. If the Lightning wanted to take control of this game in the 2nd period and get back on track, they were going to have to be much more offensively aggressive.

Apparently, the Tampa Bay Lightning heard the pleas of their fans loud and clear. As the Tampa Bay Lightning hit the ice for the second period of play, it was clear they were prepared to take control of the game and get back on the right track. Just before the five-minute mark in the 2nd period, it would be Lightning right wing J.T. Brown who would get the Bolts on the board first with a snap shot that flew past Cam Ward and into the back of the net.

Just under four minutes later, the Lightning would strike once again with a goal from Tampa Bay Lightning alternate captain Ryan Callahan. The assists on the Callahan goal would be attributed to Lightning captain Steven Stamkos and defenseman Nikita Nesterov.

Callahan is finally starting to come into his game this season. Callahan’s goal in the second period is his 6th of the season. Ryan Callahan has scored two goals and two assists over the course of the last four games. Two of Callahan’s assists came on Thursday night as the Lightning defeated the Winnipeg Jets 6-5 in the shootout at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay.

Unfortunately for the Tampa Bay Lightning, they would not be headed into the second intermission with the lead. Hurricanes defenseman Michal Jordan would capitalize on his opportunity on the wraparound and beat Bishop to tie things up for the Carolina Hurricanes.

When the buzzer would finally sound to end the 2nd period of play, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Carolina Hurricanes were all tied up at two goals apiece. The difference between this period and the first, other than the goal scoring of course, is that the Hurricanes would outshoot the Lightning 8-5 in the second for a two-period total of 14-11 Carolina.

The Tampa Bay Lightning had two opportunities at the Power Play in the second period. The first was on Hurricanes center Andrej Nestrasil for Holding the Stick of Alex Killorn. The second would come at the hands of Hurricanes right wing Kris Versteeg for Slashing Braydon Coburn. Versteeg was especially upset at the call as he threw a hilarious temper tantrum in the penalty box.

Related Story: Nikita Kucherov Ruled Out Against Carolina Hurricanes

Unfortunately for the Lightning, they were unable to capitalize on either of their opportunities with the man advantage. Of course, it should come as a relief to Lightning fans the Power Play unit didn’t allow a shorthanded goal on the two chances.

When the Tampa Bay Lightning would hit the ice for the third period of play, they would find themselves in an all-too-familiar position. The Lightning would have to be prepared to lay everything on the line in the third period of they wanted to finish off their back-to-back series on a high note and maintain their current position in the Eastern Conference.

You would think when presented with a situation like this one, the Tampa Bay Lightning would play much more aggressively and take the puck to the net as much as possible. Unfortunately, as the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Carolina Hurricanes reached the halfway point in the period, the Hurricanes would outshoot the Lightning 8-3. This is not the kind of effort that wins games. Even more so, it is not the kind of play from a team who is hoping to make their way into the postseason.

The Tampa Bay Lightning found themselves in the hot seat again as Braydon Coburn would be sent to the penalty box for Hooking Hurricanes center Jordan Staal. Ironically enough, with just about 27 seconds left on the Coburn penalty, it would be Jordan Staal who would be headed to the sin bin for nailed Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman in the face with his stick. Thankfully, Hedman was ok after the hit.

The Lightning would have just over a minute and a half on the Power Play after Coburn’s penalty expired. This opened the door for Steven Stamkos to score his 25th goal of the season to reclaim the lead for the Tampa Bay Lightning. There are no words that can accurately express the delight of the Tampa Bay Lightning fans when their team actually capitalized on an opportunity in a situation that has eluded them so completely in the last few games.

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The Tampa Bay Lightning and the Carolina Hurricanes would enter the final two minutes of the game with a pair of matching penalties; one to Lightning left wing Ondrej Palat and the other to Hurricanes left wing Phillip Di Giuseppe, both for Roughing. With both teams in a 4-on-4 situation, the Carolina Hurricanes would elect to pull goaltender Cam Ward in favor of an extra attacker.

Unfortunately, the move would come to bite the Hurricanes in the behind as Tampa Bay Lightning alternate captain Ryan Callahan would hit the empty net with just 10 seconds left in the third period to give the Tampa Bay Lightning a two-goal lead over the Hurricanes. When the final buzzer would sound, it would be the Tampa Bay Lightning who would come up victorious with a 4-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.

One of the biggest contributors to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s victory over the Carolina Hurricanes was Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop. Bishop faced more than a couple barrages over the course of the game and was able to come up huge on quite a few of them. Bishop allowed just two goals on a total of 31 shots on goal. This gave him a Save Percentage of .935.

Another large contributor to tonight’s victory was Ryan Callahan. Callahan had two goals in tonight’s encounter, one of which was on the empty net. Another large contributor to tonight’s victory was Lightning captain Steven Stamkos. Stamkos scored a power play goal in the third period, which ultimately ended up being the game winner. Stamkos also got the primary assist on Callahan’s first goal in the second period.

The Tampa Bay Lightning still have some work to do if they want to remain viable this season, but they have definitely taken steps in the right direction over the course of the last two games. The Tampa Bay Lightning have tomorrow off to make their way back to the Sunshine State. On Tuesday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning will get down to business once again as they take on the Arizona Coyotes at the Amalie Arena.

Next: Nikita Kucherov Ruled Out Against The Hurricanes

The puck is scheduled to drop at 7:30 p.m. from the Amalie Arena in Tampa. What do you think will be the key to victory against the Coyotes on Tuesday night? Let us know what you think in the comments below.