When the Hurricanes face the visiting Lightning again Saturday night, they’ll be searching for their third win in four games and attempting to earn back-to-back victories for the second time this season.
After advancing to last season’s Eastern Conference finals, Carolina split its first four games, including a 2-1 shootout win over Tampa Bay on Oct. 6.
The Lightning, however, snapped their eight-game losing streak to the Hurricanes four days later with a 5-2 home victory. That loss began Carolina’s 0-10-4 skid that ended with Sunday’s 5-4 shootout win over Minnesota, and the Hurricanes (4-12-5) earned another two points Thursday night by rallying for a 6-5 shootout victory against Toronto.
Carolina rallied from a three-goal first-period deficit and forced overtime on a goal by Erik Cole(notes) with 2.9 seconds left in regulation. Tuomo Ruutu(notes) and Jussi Jokinen(notes) then converted both of Carolina’s attempts in the shootout.
“We’ve got a lot of disappointment in there for where we’re at, but they haven’t splintered and they haven’t quit on each other,” coach Paul Maurice said. “The players still fight. The players still believe, and they compete.”
Maurice’s club hasn’t earned consecutive victories since beating the Lightning and Florida at home Oct. 6 and 9, and it could use better play from veteran goaltender Manny Legace(notes), who was signed Nov. 9 to replace an injured Cam Ward(notes).
Legace is 1-1-2 with a 3.71 goals-against average in his five games for the Hurricanes and won Thursday despite giving up a season-high five goals.
“I was absolutely awful,” Legace said. “And the boys just bailed me out.”
As he tries to extend Carolina’s seven-game home win streak over Tampa Bay, Legace will face a challenge in an improved Lightning team that’s 4-0-3 since Nov. 3. The Hurricanes goaltender has also never beaten Tampa Bay in five career starts and gave up five goals in his previous matchup, a 5-4 loss for St. Louis on Feb. 5, 2008.
Tampa Bay (8-4-7) also rallied from a three-goal deficit Thursday but fell 4-3 in overtime at Anaheim.
Ryan Malone(notes), who is on a five-game point streak, had his third career hat trick in the Oct. 10 win over Carolina, and he has six goals and an assist in his last seven games against the Hurricanes.
Malone has three goals and six assists in the past five games.
After giving Mike Smith(notes) consecutive starts, Tampa Bay could look to Antero Niittymaki(notes), who is among the league leaders with a 1.93 GAA. Niittymaki is searching for his fifth straight win over Carolina since the beginning of last season and stopped 24 shots in the Oct. 10 win over the Hurricanes.
Smith, meanwhile, is 0-4-3 with a 3.34 GAA lifetime versus Carolina.
Tampa Bay hasn’t won at the RBC Center since Nov. 8, 2007.