John Grahame is doing his best to erase his label as a backup goaltender.
Grahame has served as Nikolai Khabibulin’s backup since joining the Lightning on Jan. 13, 2003, but has been the better of the two goalies lately.
Grahame allowed one goal for the fourth straight game—all during the longest road win streak in team history—in a 3-1 victory over Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
Since the Lightning joined the NHL for the 1992-93 season, they had never won more than three straight on the road. Their current four-game streak began after losing 5-2 in Ottawa on Jan. 6, when Khabibulin surrendered five goals on 27 shots.
Grahame stopped 66 of 70 shots in wins over Montreal, New Jersey, the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh to close the team’s five-game road trip.
“When you’re on that road that long, everyone wants to get home, but you want to end on a positive note,” Grahame said. “That was the big thing, to try to stay focused and get through this last one.”
With Khabibulin making $4.4 million this season, and the team holding a $6.5 million option for next season, rumors continue to circulate that the Lightning may be interested in dealing Khabibulin.
While Khabibulin has a .500 record (11-11-2) with a 2.16 goals-against average, Grahame is 9-5-1 with a 1.58 GAA.
“When he’s playing, it’s tough because obviously you think you should be playing all the time but when you have a goaltender like that, it justifies it a little bit,” Grahame said. “With our situation, I think with the respect that I have for him and I think he’s got a little bit for me, it’s not a big deal.”
Carolina played at home for the eighth time in nine games Sunday and settled for a 2-2 tie against Ottawa, as Erik Cole scored with 3:29 left in regulation.
“We need points,” Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said. “We need lots of points. We need wins. The fact that we got a point is good in the standings.”
The Hurricanes are 6-6-1 since Laviolette replaced Paul Maurice despite scoring more than two goals just once in that span.
STANDINGS (through Jan. 13): Hurricanes - 39 points, 4th place, 8 PB, Southeast Division. Lightning - 47 points, 1st place, Southeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Hurricanes - Josef Vasicek, 11 goals; Jeff O’Neill, 17 assists and 22 points; Jesse Boulerice, 77 PIM. Lightning - Martin St. Louis, 15 goals, 22 assists and 37 points; Chris Dingman, 100 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Jan. 13): Hurricanes - Power play: 9.7 percent (19 for 195), 30th in NHL. Penalty killing: 83.0 percent (146 for 176), 21st. Lightning - Power play: 12.7 percent (24 for 189), 26th. Penalty killing: 85.3 percent (128 for 150), 14th.
GOALTENDERS: Hurricanes - Weekes (14-15-7, 5 SO, 2.02 GAA); Jamie Storr (0-5-2, 3.01). Lightning - Khabibulin (11-11-5, 2, 2.16); Grahame (9-5-1, 1, 1.58).
SEASON SERIES: Lightning, 1-0-2.
LAST MEETING: Nov. 23; Tied, 0-0. At Raleigh, N.C., Khabibulin stopped 37 shots for his 34th career shutout, and Weekes made 21 saves for his 16th career shutout.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Hurricanes - 4-11-3-1 on the road; Lightning - 10-7-3-1 at home.