TAMPA — Hockey fans will be in for a treat should the Lightning and Hurricanes meet in the postseason.
On Tuesday night at Amalie Arena the Central Division rivals met for the eighth and final time during this truncated 2021 campaign. The game played out much like the first seven in that it was testy at times and exhibited little margin for error.
It also concluded with a 4-1 Carolina victory making the final margin in the season series 4-3-1 in favor of the Lightning. Tampa Bay won Monday night’s encounter, 3-2 in overtime, but on Tuesday night there might have been some energy wasted on things they could not control.
“They were competitive games and emotional games,” said Blake Coleman, referring to the eight meetings. “I thought we took it to them (Monday) night. A lot of our emotion (Tuesday night) was placed in the wrong areas. We need to stay focused on the task at hand.”
Coleman noted the Lightning may have lost focus after a call or two went against them. Nonetheless, the loss left the Lightning three points behind the Hurricanes and Panthers, who defeated the Blue Jackets on Tuesday. Carolina has two games in hand on Florida and one on Jon Cooper’s team.
After a scoreless first period, the Hurricanes opened the second period with the man advantage after Mikhail Sergachev was whistled for slashing at the 20-minute mark of the opening period.
Though the ‘Canes, who entered the evening with the league’s top power play, did not score, they took control of the period and had 12 of the first 15 shots. They broke through at 7:48 when Nino Neidereitter took a centering pass from Vincent Trochek and put the puck past Andrei Vasilevskiy, who was playing back-to-back nights.
Barclay Goodrow and Jordan Martinook brought 3,800 to their feet when they dropped gloves on the ensuing draw, though the visitors got their second goal in 25 seconds when Jordan Staal, while being hounded by Yanni Gourde, deflected Dougie Hamilton’s right point shot past Vasilevskiy.
Carolina went up 3-0 on a goal by Steven Lorentz at 16:45. Eighteen seconds later Brayden Point redirected Ondrei Palat’s feed past Alex Nedeljkovic to make it 3-1. That is as close the Lightning got.
“They were just quicker than us,” said Point. “They were quicker to pucks and did not give us much time and space. We showed glimpses tonight, but not enough. We were giving up too much.”
Especially in the middle period when the final shot margin was 14-7.
“We had a bad second period,” said Cooper. “We just made mistakes that ended up in the net. We had some good looks in the third, but their goalie played well. The game didn’t have the emotional checklist as (Monday) night, but they played well and capitalized.”
One of the good looks was by Alex Barre-Boulet, who had an opportunity down low on the power play. Alex Killorn had a point-blank opportunity in the final minute with Vasilevskiy pulled. Nedeljkovic, though, was equal to the task on a night when he stopped 26 of 27 shots.
An empty-net goal with three seconds remaining by Martinook concluded the scoring.
The Lightning resume their five-game homestand Thursday night against Columbus and conclude it Sunday against the Blue Jackets. Both games are 7:00.