The Hurricanes will try to extend that win streak at the RBC Center to nine games when the Lightning visit Monday night.
After reaching the Eastern Conference finals in 2008-09, the Hurricanes have stumbled to a league-worst 14-26-7 record this season. They showed signs of improvement by producing a season-high three-game win streak earlier this month, but have dropped back-to-back games since then.
In its return home from a two-game trip, Carolina rallied from a two-goal deficit to tie Atlanta with 11:51 remaining, but allowed the Thrashers to take the lead for good 44 seconds later en route to a 5-3 defeat.
“We just didn’t play good enough defense,” said forward Jussi Jokinen(notes), who had two goals and an assist in the loss. “If you want to win in this league, you have to hold teams to two goals or less.”
The Hurricanes have had plenty of success containing the Lightning at home over the past three seasons, allowing two goals or fewer in each of the past seven matchups there. They’ve also given up one goal in both wins at the RBC Center this season over Tampa Bay.
Cam Ward(notes) has played in all but one game during his team’s home win streak over Tampa Bay (18-19-10), but he’s given up seven goals in the past two games. He also allowed two of the Lightning’s three third-period scores in his most recent matchup, a 5-2 road loss Oct. 10.
However, he’ll face a Tampa Bay team that’s scored two goals or fewer in three of its last four games and was outscored 8-4 in a home-and-home sweep to Florida, including Saturday night’s 5-2 road loss.
In the opener of a three-game road trip, the Lightning were shut out over the final 43:29, and goaltender Antero Niittymaki(notes) was pulled after the second period, allowing Dustin Tokarski(notes) to make his NHL debut.
“That was exciting, for sure. I was nervous, but after a save or two, I felt pretty good,” said the 20-year-old Tokarski, who stopped all five shots he faced. “So it was a great experience and I’m glad they put me in there.”
With Mike Smith(notes) still ailing from a cervical strain, the Lightning will have to rely on Niittymaki or Tokarski again Monday. Niittymaki has a gaudy 4.20 goals-against average over his last seven appearances, but he has won four straight over the Hurricanes while posting a 2.17 GAA.
While Tampa Bay is trying to avoid a fourth loss in five road games, Carolina is searching for its third win in four home contests.
The Hurricanes, victorious in 11 of 13 overall against the Lightning, will also try to maintain one of their three winning records against one opponent so far this season. They’re also 2-1-0 versus Toronto and won their only meeting this season with Vancouver.
Tampa Bay’s previous win at Carolina was a 5-1 victory Nov. 8, 2007.