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Quick start propels Lightning in 4-1 win over Hurricanes

The SportsXchange

RALEIGH, N.C. -- A smooth start to a game did wonders for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Tampa Bay scored twice in the first 12 minutes, setting the tone in Tuesday night's 4-1 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes.

"It was huge," Lightning center Tom Pyatt said of the early goals. "We played better defensively. We were all about that."

Goalie Mathieu Garon made 35 saves in his season debut as the Lightning picked up goals from four players at PNC Arena.

The Lightning, who trailed almost from the get-go in losing Monday on the road to the New York Islanders, struck with first-period goals from Pyatt and rookie Cory Conacher.

Conacher has points in all three games this season for Tampa Bay (2-1).

"The points I'm getting, it's not just me," Conacher said.

Much of the credit for the hot start to the game went to captain Vincent Lecavalier, who assisted on the first two goals. He played like he was intent on creating a fresh beginning a day after the team's only loss.

"He does the little things," Conacher said. "Everyone looks up to him in this room. He has played 1,000 games. It's hard not to look up to him."

Pyatt said the Lightning reacted well to the early success against Carolina, keeping enough pressure on to make it uneasy for the Hurricanes.

"We just stuck to the game plan," he said. "We didn't want to open things up. We were pretty disciplined."

The Hurricanes (0-2) have won only four home openers in 15 seasons since the franchise relocated to North Carolina. Carolina lost its season opener 5-1 Saturday at Florida.

Still, coach Kirk Muller said he sensed improvement.

"We were better team (this game) than we were the other night," Muller said. "But we're 0-2 in a shortened season."

Jeff Skinner's power-play goal early in the second period allowed the Hurricanes to close within 2-1. Jordan Staal assisted on the play for his first point with the team since arriving in an offseason trade from Pittsburgh.

"We didn't really build off that," Staal said. "Sometimes they don't all go in."

Tampa Bay's Keith Aulie tallied less than two minutes into the third period to curtail Carolina's short-lived momentum before teammate Ryan Malone added a power-play goal midway through the third period. Malone's goal came when the Hurricanes' defense shifted out of position.

Garon was busiest in the third period, stopping all 15 shots.

The Hurricanes went with goalie Cam Ward even though he was pulled after one period of the opener, when he surrendered four goals. He had trouble again in the first period, making only six saves on eight shots. He finished with 22 saves.

NOTES: Skinner, a former NHL Rookie of the Year, was moved off a line with center Staal as the Hurricanes reworked combinations from the opener. Skinner and Staal were both minus-2 in plus/minus in the opener. ... Tampa Bay used defenseman Brendan Mikkelson and center Dana Tyrell for their first action of the season in the third game. ... Forward Kevin Westgarth, who was acquired about a week earlier from the Los Angeles Kings, made his Carolina debut after he was a healthy scratch for the opener. Westgarth, who lives in Raleigh and had worked out with some of the Hurricanes during the lockout, is a son-in-law of former NFL coach Bill Cowher. ... Tampa Bay and Carolina split six games last season, with the Lightning winning once in overtime. ... This is the second year in a row that Carolina's home opener came against Tampa Bay. Standing-room-only tickets were sold for the game. ... The Lightning begins a five-game homestand Friday night, with Ottawa the first opponent during that stretch. Carolina plays Thursday against the Sabres, the start of a home-and-home series that concludes Friday in Buffalo.
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