RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper put Ryan Callahan back in the lineup for the first time in nearly two weeks on Thursday.
Callahan responded by getting the go-ahead goal.
Callahan scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period, and the Lightning picked up their seventh straight win with a 6-3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.
“It felt really good,” Callahan said. “Obviously any time you get in the lineup you want to contribute the best way you can and it was a pretty big goal at that part of the game. I was really excited when it went in.”
Callahan, a healthy scratch the past five games, had not played since March 9.
“I feel so happy for him,” said Anthony Cirelli, who scored the tying goal earlier in the third period. “He works so hard on and off the ice. He’s just a great leader to have in the dressing room, a great guy. So for him to get that one on his birthday, that was pretty special.”
Steven Stamkos had a goal and two assists and Cirelli, Tyler Johnson, Brayden Point and Ryan McDonagh all scored for the Lightning, who scored four unanswered goals in the third period to erase a 3-2 deficit.
Victor Hedman had three assists and Louis Domingue stopped 25 of 28 shots for his 13th win in his past 14 starts. Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov became the first player to reach 120 points in a season since 2006-07 with his assist on Johnson’s first-period goal.
Nino Niederreiter, Dougie Hamilton and Jordan Staal scored for the Hurricanes. Staal’s go-ahead goal in the second period came after he returned from hit to the head from Lightning center Yanni Gourde, who was given a match penalty and ejected.
Curtis McElhinney made 26 saves for Carolina, which is in a tight race for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Hurricanes allowed two power-play goals as well as a four-on-four goal.
“That’s the game,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “You watch every game they play, you turn it into a special teams game, you’re probably not going to win those too many times against them. … We need to keep that game five-on-five and it got away from us on that end of it.”
Stamkos opened the scoring at 3:20 of the first on a power play with a wrist shot into the upper corner of the net, but Niederreiter responded with a hard wrister that nicked the knob of Domingue’s stick on its way to the upper right corner midway through the first.
Hamilton gave Carolina its first lead less than two minutes later when he collected a rolling puck on a rebound and fired it past Domingue’s glove, but Johnson tied it with 26 seconds left in the period when he buried a rebound.
The second period belonged to Carolina when Staal made his return and scored a breakaway goal to give the Hurricanes the lead back, but it wouldn’t last.
Tampa Bay opened the third on the attack and pulled into a 3-3 tie less than four minutes in.
After Erik Cernak got called for tripping and Warren Foegele was sent off for embellishment to create a four-on-four, Cirelli tied the score when he fought through a tie-up with Teuvo Teravainen to get just enough of Stamkos’ centering pass and push it into the net.
That set the stage for Callahan’s winner with 9:51 to go. Hedman delivered a hard pass from the point to the crease, and Callahan seamlessly redirected it past McElhinney.
“As soon as it goes to Heddy I’m just trying to go toward that back door,” Callahan said. “I had a step on my guy and it was unbelievable vision by Heddy. We kind of made a little bit of eye contact so I knew it was coming. I just had to put my stick down and tap it in.”
Jaccob Slavin hit the crossbar 15 seconds later for Carolina, but the Hurricanes wouldn’t get close again. Point added the insurance goal with 3:24 left to end the Hurricanes’ comeback hopes and McDonagh added an empty-netter with 1:05 remaining.
NOTES: Cooper coached his 500th NHL game and earned his 300th NHL win. … Lightning D Dan Girardi (lower body injury) and D Anton Stralman (lower body injury) each missed their seventh straight game. Girardi is out indefinitely and Stralman is day to day. … Niederreiter and Hamilton each extended their point streaks to three games. … Hurricanes D Calvin De Haan returned wearing a full cage after missing the previous three games with an eye injury. … Slavin played his 300th game.
Lightning: Visit St. Louis on Saturday
Hurricanes: Host Minnesota on Saturday