Despite having one of the league's worst records, the Carolina Hurricanes are just a strong run shy of catching the Philadelphia Flyers for the third and final playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division.
A win in Philadelphia on Tuesday night would help the Hurricanes cut into that margin. It would also mark a third straight victory in the series for the first time since they relocated from Connecticut.
Carolina's back-to-back wins over the Flyers - 2-1 home victories Oct. 6 and Nov. 5 - are the franchise's first since 2000. The Hurricanes haven't knocked them off in three consecutive meetings since a six-game winning streak as the Hartford Whalers from Dec. 22, 1990-April 15, 1992.
Carolina (20-19-9) is tied for the sixth-fewest points in the NHL but just seven back of Philadelphia for third in the division. The Hurricanes would be much closer if it weren't for their recent struggles to find the back of the net, scoring six goals on 149 shots over the last four games. They've lost three times in that span after winning a season-best five in a row.
Jeff Skinner, whose 21 goals lead the club, has 19 shots over his last four contests without a goal after scoring seven in his previous five. He matched a season high with seven shots in Sunday's 5-3 home loss to Tampa Bay.
Carolina tallied 51 shots to the Lightning's 24. It marked the club's first game with at least 50 since April 7, 2009, and first since Dec. 31, 2006, in which they lost by two or more goals despite taking at least twice as many shots as the opponent.
Justin Peters made his first start of the month but was pulled in the first period after allowing three goals on seven shots, and the Hurricanes would trail 4-0 early in the second. Carolina's top defensive pairing of Justin Faulk and Andrej Sekera were on the ice for all five goals allowed.
The Hurricanes are 3-14-4 when trailing after two periods.
"A lot of what we wanted to do was throw pucks at the net, attack," said Eric Staal, who had a goal and an assist for his fourth multipoint performance in six games. "All those goals that can deflate you, they capitalized on. We didn't sulk or cry. We continued to work and compete and had a lot of other chances and fought hard to try to get back into it. Just was a little too big of a hill to climb."
Carolina might be able to break through for more offense against Philadelphia (25-19-6), which has surrendered 23 goals over its last six contests.
The Flyers built a 3-1 lead on two second-period goals from Matt Read on Monday against the New York Islanders, but were outshot 17-3 in the third and lost 4-3 in a shootout.
Philadelphia allowed two power-play goals on six chances, including the tying goal with 2:58 left. The Flyers have been short-handed a league-worst 201 times.
"You can't win if you take penalties like we did," coach Craig Berube said. "We got caught at the worst time."
Read, playing his fourth game since sitting out four with concussion symptoms, also scored in the shootout and on an empty-netter in Saturday's home win over the Islanders.
Skinner has three goals and four assists in his last six games versus the Flyers.
Carolina has lost eight of nine in Philadelphia, where the Flyers have gone 11-1-1 since Nov. 8.