TAMPA, Fla. (AP)—All that mattered to Lightning coach John Tortorella was that his team won its fifth straight game.
He wasn’t worried about Tampa Bay’s sluggish play after a five-goal first period or a near collapse by struggling goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin.
“Wins are tough to come by in this league. You take the two points and go,” Tortorella said Thursday night after a 5-4 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.
“The second period we hit the wall. … It happens. The positive thing out of it is we found a way to finish the game and get the two points.”
St. Louis scored all three of his goals during the Lightning’s five-goal first period against goaltenders Kevin Weekes and Jamie Storr, matching the three-goal performance the All-Star forward had against Carolina on Jan. 30, 2003.
Andreychuk scored the 622nd goal of his 22-year career in the period, making him the 25th player in NHL history with 1,300 points. Brad Richards scored just 35 seconds into the game, and Carolina coach Peter Laviolette yanked Weekes when St. Louis scored on Tampa Bay’s second shot, less than three minutes later.
Storr wasn’t much better at first, giving up two goals to St. Louis in a three-minute span before Andreychuk got his ninth of the season on a power play to give the Lightning a 5-1 lead.
It turned out that Khabibulin needed every bit of the cushion. Carolina scored three straight goals, pulling to 5-4 on Josef Vasicek’s shot from the lower left circle with 10:23 remaining.
Carolina didn’t take solace in making it close.
“It really doesn’t even matter. It’s a loss,” Laviolette said.
“Am I supposed to, or are they supposed to say: `Well, good effort. Good try. We fought hard.’ Do you think we’re in a position to do that? We’re not in any position to do that. We’re in a position to come out fighting right off the bat.”
Pavel Brendl scored his first goal for Carolina since being recalled from the minors to bolster the Hurricanes’ offense. Ron Francis added a goal against Khabibulin late in the first period, and Carolina trimmed its deficit to 5-3 when Erik Cole added a power-play goal with 1:22 left in the second.
Khabibulin stopped 20 shots in his first start since a 5-2 loss at Ottawa on Jan. 6, the first game on Tampa Bay’s road trip. The Lightning won the last four, with John Grahame giving up one goal each in victories over Montreal, New Jersey, Pittsburgh and the New York Rangers.
“He was OK,” Tortorella said of Khabibulin. “A game like this, we knew it was going to be a struggle. We knew it was going to be an interesting game.”
After dominating the opening period, Tampa Bay managed just two shots in the second and 11 in the third.
Laviolette pulled Weekes just 3:54 into the game, but the Hurricanes didn’t blame their poor start on the goaltender.
“That’s what happens when we leave him hanging out to dry,” Cole said.“No goalie is going to stop the two goals that went in.”
Vasicek had assists on Carolina’s second and third goals. … Richards had two assists for Tampa Bay, which also got three assists from Cory Stillman. … NHL commissioner Gary Bettman attended the game. … Lightning C Vincent Lecavalier returned from a one-game suspension for kicking Darius Kasparaitis during last Sunday’s victory over the Rangers. … Carolina D Danny Markov played after sitting out two games with an injured left shoulder. He had an assist on Brendl’s goal in the first period. … Stillman has a four-game pointstreak with two goals and six assists.