The Hurricanes look to win their ninth straight over the Lightning on Saturday when they meet for the second time this week.
Following its surprise run to the Eastern Conference final in last season’s playoffs, Carolina (2-2-0) was limited to two goals in season-opening losses to Philadelphia and Boston.
The Hurricanes got their first win with a 2-1 shootout victory over Tampa Bay on Tuesday then broke out in a 7-2 rout over Florida on Friday - their highest-scoring game since tallying nine against the Islanders on April 7.
“When you go three games and people you expect to score don’t, they feel it,” coach Paul Maurice said. “And they feel it right away. Hopefully those guys have just a little more confidence with the puck now.”
There should be several players who should be coming into Saturday with a little more confidence. Six of the seven goals against the Panthers came from players that hadn’t found the back of the net this season. Jussi Jokinen(notes) scored his second goal late in the first period to give Carolina a 3-0 lead and added two assists.
Staal had four goals and two assists in Carolina’s last visit to St. Pete Times Forum - a 9-3 victory on March 7.
Even without much help from Staal, the Hurricanes have already extended their winning streak over the Lightning (0-1-2) this week. Tuomo Ruutu(notes) scored the shootout winner and kept Tampa Bay from getting its first win in the series since March 29, 2008.
The Lightning, meanwhile, have yet to earn a victory this season, but came painfully close against New Jersey on Thursday. Tampa Bay allowed a game-tying shot with one second left in regulation before falling 4-3 in a shootout.
“You can’t believe it,” coach Rick Tocchet said. “The guys deserved better.”
Tampa Bay had a scary moment in the second period when goaltender Mike Smith(notes) was knocked to the ice with 5:44 remaining in the period. After a brief delay, Smith, who missed most of the second half last season with concussion-related symptoms, returned and finished with 31 saves.
Smith was limited to 41 games last season when he went 14-18-9 with a respectable 2.62 goals-against average. The Lightning, who finished last in the Southeast Division and allowed 279 goals - among the most in the East—were hoping his return would help anchor the defense but he’s given up 10 goals so far.
Smith is 0-4-3 with a 3.34 goals-against average in seven starts against the Hurricanes.