The game began with Tampa Bay quickly overwhelming the Hurricanes immediately after the puck drop, charging into the Hurricanes zone and making it look like the Lightning was on the power play. 38 seconds into the period, the Bolts officially began a power play after Patrick Dwyer was called for boarding.
For the Hurricanes, something happened during that penalty kill: they woke up. The team started playing like you knew they were capable, and the Lightning power play started playing like you know they are capable. It was a fruitless man-advantage that gave way to a very competitive back-and-forth which continued through much of the first.
This was a great square off between two very competitive hockey teams. You wouldn't know both were inundated with issues of various sorts - the Hurricanes in free fall due to injuries and the Lightning trying to simply tread water (if not start swimming again). At least, that's what I take from much of the competition level early on
As the period wore on, however, more and more play was happening in the Lightning's own zone. The old formula of turnovers and poor puck possession led to more chances for Carolina. One such turnover -- by Dana Tyrell near the Carolina blue line with about a minute to play in the period - led to a rush by the Hurricanes XXX and Alexander Semin. And a score... Or not? A review of Semin's goal saw him distinctively kick the pass from (XX) into the net for the Hurricanes would-be tally.
The first period ended scoreless, with Tampa Bay being outshot 16 to 9.
The second period opened much the same way the 1st period opened, with one distinctive difference: Tampa bay capitalized on its rush coming out of intermission and scored quickly with Teddy Purcell netting his 8th goal on the season with a wrist shot. The assist went to Matt Carle, and the Lightning were on the board.
Eric Brewer went to the box 1:42 into the period for manhandling Jeff Skinner. The resulting penalty kill was great for 1:23, with strong play from the Lightning, good clearing opportunities... But as it often has during the season, something went awry: Radko Gudas sent an errant clearing shot over the glass and that led to 37 seconds of 5-on-3 by way of the delay of game penalty it brought on.
...And this was where the penalty kill unit relied heavily on its newest member: Ben Bishop. Bishop denied the Canes on the 5-on-3 as well as the remaining 1:23 of power play time after Brewer's original penalty expired.
For a time, play was dominated by the Hurricanes, but then play began to involve the Bolts in the Carolina zone more and more... Chance, chance, turnover, chance... Pay dirt! Tom Pyatt tipped in an Alex Killorn shot and made it 2-0 (with Eric Brewer getting a secondary assist) with 4:05 left in the period.
With less than a minute to go in the 2nd set, Keith Aulie fired a shot from the lower boards near the blue line of the Carolina zone and made it 3-0. Tampa Bay ended the period outshooting the Hurricanes 13-12.
The 2nd intermission brought with it bad news: The loss of Victor Hedman to an ambiguous lower-body injury. Hedman had not skated at all in the 2nd. Also, Vincent Lecavalier spent extended time off the Lightning bench and in the locker room before returning during play in the period. He finished the game with 12:17 of ice time.
In the third period, Martin St. Louis scored his 9th goal of the season 2:24 in, converting on a slap shot (assists went to Ben Pouliot and Matt Carle who had a rather outstanding game both offensively and defensively). That gave Tampa Bay a 4-0 advantage...
The lead was increased to five at the 12:30 mark of the period when Benoit Pouliot scored his first goal since returning from a shoulder injury. Pouliot banged home a Steven Stamkos pass into the open end of Carolina's net.
This became Ben Bishop's show, though there were attempts on Dan Ellis and the Carolina net by the Lightning, the remainder of this game was watching the newly acquired netminder try to stave off the Hurricanes attempts to erase the goose-egg that sat beneath their name on the scoreboard.
An interference call against the Lightning with 8:20 left on the clock sent the Bolts out on the penalty kill... What would normally result in a tally by the opposition -- a lead for Tampa, an increased opportunity for the opponent, and a team playing lax in front of their goalie -- turned into one of the better Lightning penalty kills of the season, keeping the commanding lead intact.
And while Carolina would put pressure on the Lightning in their zone for much of the remainder of the game, the 5-0 lead stood; the first shutout of the season for the Lightning, in Ben Bishop's first game in Bolts blue.
In the end, Tampa Bay was outshot 45-30, the first game of Jon Cooper's tenure that the team had been outshot, and a shooting margin more reminiscent of what the Lightning were allowing under Guy Boucher. 45 shots faced were the most faced by a Lightning goaltender this year. It's something that still needs to be worked on or the Bolts will find themselves right back where they were recently - drowning in their own mistakes and miscues and leaving their goalie out to dry...
Tampa Bay takes a commanding 4-0 lead in the final divisional season series with the Hurricanes, Their last contest as divisional opponents will be April 21st in Tampa. In the more immediate future, Tampa Bay plays a back-to-back series of games Saturday and Sunday in Uniondale, New York against the Islanders and in Washington D.C. against the Capitals.