Carolina Hurricanes lose third game in a row to Tampa Bay Lightning

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Chip Alexander
·5 min read
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The Carolina Hurricanes played well for 60 minutes Thursday.

The Canes had their offensive chances, killed off all their penalties, played a physical game and maintained their intensity.

It wasn’t enough. Not against the Tampa Bay Lightning, which combined the effective play of goalie Curtis McElhinney and just enough offense for a 3-1 victory at Amalie Arena.

For the fourth consecutive game, the Canes and Lightning lined up against each other after an NHL scheduling change last week. For the third straight time, the Lightning (13-4-1) won as Mikhail Sergachev, Yanni Gourde and Barclay Goodrow provided the goals and McElhinney made 31 saves.

Defenseman Brett Pesce beat McElhinney off the rush in the first period for his second goal of the season, with Jesper Fast setting up the shot. But that was all McElhinney allowed as the Canes fell to 12-6-1.

McElhinney, who played for the Canes in 2018-19, was making just his third start of the season and has spent time on the NHL’s COVID protocol list. He had a handful of high-quality saves, stretching out his right foot in the second period to make a toe save on Steven Lorentz, who was bidding for his first NHL goal.

While McElhinney made some strong saves, Canes goalie James Reimer allowed a soft goal to Sergachev. Gourde’s shot from the right circle appeared to clip the stick of the Canes’ Brock McGinn and was set up by a tape-to-tape stretch pass from Victor Hedman.

Goodrow had an empty-net goal for the second straight game after the Canes pulled Reimer for an extra attacker.

Gourde gave the Lightning a 2-1 lead at 6:22 of the third, beating Reimer with a top-shelf shot from the right circle. Gourde picked up his fifth goal of the season.

Second period: Lightning ties the score

The Canes took a 1-0 lead into the second period and had their chances to add to it, only to have the Lightning tie it after two.

The Canes had two power plays in the first nine minutes of the period but couldn’t convert. Later in the period, Steven Lorentz jumped on a rebound, looking for his first NHL goal, only to have McElhinney deny him, stretching for a toe save.

The Lightning then tied on a Mikhail Sergachev goal, his first of the season, for the 1-1 tie. It was soft goal for Canes goalie James Reimer, but Reimer soon made a sprawling save, diving across the crease, to stop a shot near the post and keep the score tied.

First period: Pesce scores for Canes

Defenseman Brett Pesce’s second goal of the season has given the Canes a 1-0 lead after the first period.

The Canes were sharper and more engaged than they have been the first periods of the previous two games with the Lightning, outshooting Tampa Bay 13-6 in the period and outchancing the Lightning.

Pesce’s goal came off the rush, off a nice setup pass frrom Jesper Fast, who Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour put on the top line with Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov. It was Svechnikov who took a hit along the boards to get a pass to Aho and spring the play. Aho pushed the puck to Fast, who took it from there as Pesce jumped into the rush down the right wing.

Svechnikov nearly scored earlier in the first off the rush, hitting the far post with a backhander after a pass from Aho.

Tampa Bay had three power plays in the first, although an Alex Killorn slashing penalty against Brick McGinn shorted the second. The Lightning carried 20 seconds of power-play time into the second.

Game setup

Regular-season games with a playoff feel. That’s the way Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour described the Canes’ four straight games against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday morning leading into the fourth game.

The Canes won the first of the four on Saturday at PNC Arena as Alex Nedeljkovic picked up his first NHL shutout. Tampa Bay won the second game 4-2 on Monday, then had Andrei Vasilevskiy come through with a shutout Wednesday as the Lightning won 3-0 at Amalie Arena in Tampa.

“These are playoff games,” Brind’Amour said Thursday morning. “You can tell by how tight they are. You have to fight for every inch. So it definitely has a playoff feel for me on the bench in how it’s being played and the intensity of it.”

The Canes have had poor starts in each of the last two games, falling behind 2-0 Wednesday in the first period. The Canes began to get to their game in the late stages of the second period but Vasilevskiy, the 2019 Vezina Trophy winner, was a wall in net.

“We’ve talked about it for three weeks,” Brind’Amour said of the slow starts. “Sometimes, you overcook it. And you’ve got to give the other team credit. They’re a good team. We’ve got to play a 60-minute game. The other team is doing their part to make sure we don’t.”

The Canes blanked the Lightning in their first regular-season meeting on Jan. 28 in Raleigh, getting a shutout from goalie Petr Mrazek.

The lineup

James Reimer will be the starting goalie for the Canes and Curtis McElhinney is expected to be the starter for the Lightning to complete the back-to-back.

McElhinney helped the Canes reach the 2019 playoffs, signed as a free agent with Tampa Bay and won a Stanley Cup with the Lightning last season in the bubble Stanley Cup playoffs. He has spent some time on the NHL COVID protocol list this season and has played two games, going 1-1 with a 3.57 goals-against average and .844 save percentage.

Brind’Amour shuffled all the lines in the third period of Wednesday’s game and the Canes did not have a morning skate Thursday at Amalie Arena.

One lineup change will have defenseman Haydn Fleury drawing back in and Jake Gardiner will be a scratch.