The Hurricanes rebounded from an overtime loss the night before to beat the Lightning 4-1 in Tuesday’s rematch in Tampa Bay. Nino Niederreiter, Jordan Staal and Steven Lorentz scored, Jordan Martinook added an empty-net goal, and Alex Nedeljkovic made 26 saves for his third straight win.
The game was the last in the eight-game season series, and both teams finished with a 4-3-1 record. Carolina maintained its division lead with 65 points, the same as Florida but with two games in hand. The Lightning, who have played one game fewer than the Panthers, are three points behind.
1. Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said his team had to “up the ante a little bit” after Carolina stole a point from the Lightning on Monday despite an uneven effort.
The coach had no such problem with his team’s performance Tuesday in the second of back-to-back games in Tampa Bay.
“That was a 60-minute effort all the way through,” Brind’Amour said. “They had some shifts, but nothing like the other night in our end.”
Niederreiter, who opened the scoring 7:48 into the second period, said the Hurricanes knew they needed a better effort after Monday’s overtime loss.
“I think everybody was a little bit angry from last night’s game, and we all were a little disappointed the way we came out,” he said. “We knew exactly what we had to bring and how to respond, and I think right from the get-go we got pucks in deep, we made simple plays and we ended up getting rewarded for it.”
2. Leading the way was Carolina’s fourth line (more on that later) and Staal. The captain epitomized the Hurricanes’ resolve on his goal.
A battle with Yanni Gourde in the corner of the Tampa Bay end continued in front of the net. Gourde hit the ice after Staal’s stick seemed to get him between the legs, and the Lightning center rose and delivered five cross-checks to Staal.
But the Carolina center — seven inches taller and boasting a nearly 50-pound weight advantage that is probably closer to 70 — ignored and redirected a Dougie Hamilton shot past Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy (32 saves) to give the Hurricanes a two-goal cushion.
“Those are kind of special, right?” Brind’Amour said. “Game of battles and … nice to see him get rewarded for that. Just the dirty work right, battle level — it’s nice when you get those, especially against the guy who you’re battling all night.”
His teammates took notice as well.
“That’s exactly what a captain does right there, that’s textbook,” Lorentz said. “Jordo, he’s a guy that just leads by example — he’s not the most talkative guy. He could have turned around and maybe punched him in the head after taking three or four cross-checks like that, but he kept his cool. … He just stood his ground, did his job and he tipped the puck in.
“When your captain is doing stuff like that, that just makes you want to go out and do it yourself in the next shift.”
3. The Hurricanes played most of the final two periods with just five defensemen because of an injury to Brady Skjei on a hit by Tampa Bay’s Blake Coleman. The hit in question came with 1:40 left in the first period, as Coleman barreled into the back of Skjei and mashed him into the boards. Skjei played one shift early in the second but then missed the rest of the game.
Brind’Amour, after taking the high road on a big hit the night before by the Lightning’s Alex Killorn on right wing Martin Necas, was blunter following Tuesday’s win.
“He got hit from behind in the first period, tried to play through it,” Brind’Amour said. “And it was a hit from behind, I can tell you that right now, looked at it 10 times. … I know nothing’s gonna happen, but we got a guy now (who) might have had a concussion for it. So, not happy about that.”
The silver lining was that the remaining Hurricanes defensemen picked up the slack in what was a 0-0 game at the time and helped stifle Tampa Bay’s attack. Three players — Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce and Hamilton — played at or seconds shy of 24 minutes, and Jake Gardiner (fourth game in six weeks) and Jani Hakanpaa (fourth game since being traded to Carolina) logged more than 18 minutes.
Number To Know
1,928 — Days since the Carolina Hurricanes had a fight on consecutive days until Martinook fought Tampa Bay’s Barclay Goodrow on Tuesday to follow up Gardiner’s fight the night before with the Lightning’s Killorn. The last time was Jan. 8-9, 2016, when Brad Malone fought Brandon Dubinsky and Jared Boll in back-to-back games against Columbus. Malone had actually done it earlier that season as well, fighting Los Angeles’ Kyle Clifford and Philadelphia’s Pierre-Edouard Bellemare on Nov. 22-23, 2015, respectively.
They Said It
“We don’t like them and they don’t like us. It’s pretty simple.”
— Hurricanes forward Nino Niederreiter on the playoff-level intensity in games against the Lightning
Steven Lorentz, Hurricanes center — Carolina’s fourth line was a tone-setter, and Lorentz led the way. The always-enthusiastic rookie gave the Hurricanes an insurance goal to cap off a three-goal second period for Carolina, taking a pass from fellow rookie Morgan Geekie in front and scoring far side on Vasilevskiy for his second career goal.
More importantly, Lorentz and his linemates — Geekie and Cedric Paquette — rebounded from what Lorentz said was an off night for the trio the night before.
“Our job is basically to keep it simple and just create energy and give our top six guys or top nine guys a rest,” Lorentz said. “And when we go out there, we know we have to play responsible and we really have to make sure we’re taking care of our own end. … We’re very proud of the way we responded tonight, and we’re very happy taking three of four (points) from Tampa.”
Andrei Svechnikov, Hurricanes forward — After scoring in three straight, Svechnikov was kept off the score sheet. Well, mostly — he was called for slashing twice in the game, once in the first and again in the third.
Neither penalty came back to bite Carolina, but Svechnikov’s fast start — two hits, a blocked shot and a shot on goal — was quickly derailed by his first infraction five minutes in, and his line with Sebastian Aho and Jesper Fast struggled against the Brayden Point line for much of the night.