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Hurricanes turn the tables on Lightning

The SportsXchange

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Carolina Hurricanes avoided a season sweep at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning, knocking off Tampa Bay 3-2 on Sunday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Jiri Tlusty had two goals while Alex Semin had a goal and two assists in support of goaltender Dan Ellis, who finished with 35 saves.

Lightning right wing Martin St. Louis had a goal and an assist to pull within one point of the league scoring lead, while Steven Stamkos also scored for Tampa Bay. Goalie Anders Lindback, in his first game since March 20, finished with 25 saves.

The Hurricanes, who had been dominated by the Lightning in their previous four meetings this season, dropping all four by a combined 18-4 score, were determined not to let that happen again while trying to rebound from a tough home loss to Philadelphia the night before.

"They have had our number recently, but I think it is important to us because we had a tough game (Saturday) night. The guys have been playing so hard through this stretch and we have actually been pleased with their effort and the way they have been playing," Carolina head coach Kirk Muller said. "We wanted to get back on track.''

That mission was accomplished with a three-goal outburst in the first period, spurred on by Semin's goal 16 seconds into the game. He took a feed from Eric Staal -- who had stolen the puck behind the net -- to give Carolina a quick lead.

Tlusty then notched his first of the game when his intended pass across the ice deflected off the skate of Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman and past Lindback at 10:45. Tlusty then made it 3-0 late in the period when he took advantage of a poor play by Ryan Malone in his own crease. Tlusty was able to knock Malone's stick, which pushed the puck into the net with 1:14 left in the first.

"If we can get the puck up into our forwards hands, we have a great group of forwards and they just need the puck on their sticks,'' Carolina goaltender Dan Ellis said.

As has been the trend for the Lightning, they fall behind and try to mount a comeback. Sunday marked the sixth consecutive game in which Tampa Bay has fallen behind by at least two goals at some point in the game. In four of those games, the Lightning either tied the game or pulled to within a goal.

"We shoot ourselves in the foot, and I don't know what the problem is,'' Hedman said. "Our first periods, ever since I've been here, have always seem to be our Achilles, we always battle back into games, which is the good part.''

That was the case once again as a power play goal by Stamkos -- his 28th goal of the season -- at 10:07 of the second period cut the deficit to 3-1. Then, in the opening minutes of the third period, Vinny Lecavalier won a clean faceoff to make a nifty pass over to St. Louis, who lifted a backhander past Ellis 2:16 into the third to pull the Lightning to within a goal.

But Tampa Bay could not find a way to pull even despite a 27-13 shot advantage over the final two periods, showing that the team still has some fight in it.

"I can't sit here and say the guys aren't trying because they are trying,'' Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "Is it human nature to look down and see that Saturday is our last game? Yeah, so it's probably a little deflating to know that we are out of (the playoffs).''

NOTES: Carolina wore its alternate black jerseys after receiving permission to wear the third jerseys. Tampa Bay wore its road white uniforms. ... The goal allowed by Tampa Bay 16 seconds into the game is tied for the third fastest allowed at home, done by Sergei Zholtok for Edmonton on March 13, 2001. The fastest was scored by Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin, seven seconds into a game on Jan. 5, 2011, in Pittsburgh. ... Tlusty increased his scoring streak to five consecutive games with his first-period goal. ... Hurricanes defenseman Joe Corvo recorded his 300th career point. ... Lindback returned to the lineup for the first time since suffering a high ankle sprain on March 20. ... Lecavalier celebrated his 33rd birthday.

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