Hurricanes fail to find footing in shutout loss to Lightning

Brayden Point had two goals and three points for Tampa Bay

Lightning forward Brayden Point shoots the puck past Hurricanes goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov for his second goal of the night during Tampa Bay's 4-0 win Tuesday in Raleigh. (Karl B. DeBlaker / AP Photo)

RALEIGH — Jordan Staal said the team “didn’t have a whole lot of jump.”

Jordan Martinook offered that the players were “trying to get a spark.”

Coach Rod Brind’Amour suggested “it certainly didn’t bounce our way.”

Whatever it was the Carolina Hurricanes needed Tuesday at PNC Arena, they didn’t have it, and the result was a 4-0 loss to the visiting Lightning.

“I just felt like we’d get a little bit going and then just stall,” Martinook said. “It’s a hard game because you’re trying to try to find it, you’re trying to find it, and then you’re trying to come back too. So it’s like you’re chasing and then trying to find a little energy.

“It’s just — they’re tough ones.”

Tampa Bay seemed to suck the energy out of both the Hurricanes and the sellout crowd at PNC Arena in the first period, when neither team mustered much of anything.

But shortly after the Hurricanes killed off the first penalty of the game early in the second period, the Lightning managed to strike first.

Tampa Bay kept the puck in the Carolina zone after the penalty expired, and Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev’s slap pass went to Steve Stamkos to the right of the Hurricanes’ net. The Tampa Bay captain slid the puck under the Hurricanes rookie goalie Pyotr Kochetkov (17 saves) to make it 1-0 at 5:58 of the second period.

The Lightning doubled their lead later in the period when Brayden Point got his 46th goal of the season by banking a loose puck off Kochetkov’s back and in at 14:23 of the middle frame.

Point added to the lead at 12:17 of the third by rattling a puck around the inside of the net from the right wing to make it 3-0.

Carolina’s last-ditch effort to pull Kochetkov with more than 6½ minutes left in regulation ended when Alex Killorn scored into an empty net with 4:21 remaining.

All that was left for the Lightning was to secure goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy’s third shutout of the season in arguably his toughest campaign since he became Tampa Bay’s No. 1 goalie.

On Tuesday, the rest of the season — even Carolina’s clinical 6-0 win over the Lightning just over three weeks ago — was forgotten. And it was a reminder that even though both teams are gearing up for a postseason run, there’s still work to be done in the final two-plus weeks of the regular season.

“This is a tough time of year for every team, for different reasons,” Brind’Amour said. “So we have our challenges too here with a lot of games. But I think it’s just trying to focus on every day, and we’ve talked about it from day one of the year.”

Staal added: “It’s a good team, and we have to bring our best to beat them. So we didn’t tonight, and there’s no real excuse for it. We’ve got to regroup and get back on the road and get on the right side of things.”

Notes: Carolina was shut out for the fifth time this season and third time since March 11. … Stefan Noesen left the game in the second period after a collision with Lightning forward Nick Paul and did not return. … The Hurricanes fell to 47-17-9 on the season but still hold a three-point lead over the Devils in Metropolitan Division with a game in hand. … Stamkos and Point both had three points in the win.