Timing is everything. There are points in a season, mainly during months that don't end in "RCH", when a hard-fought loss to a non-contender, a game in which your team does everything other than score more goals than the other guys, can be shrugged off as just one of those things. But right now, with the Lightning just on the outside of the playoff bubble, beginning their longest homestand of the year, a loss to the last-place Carolina Hurricanes hurts.
"Every game we have to get victories. We have lots of urgency in our game - our guys gave everything they had tonight." - Lightning head coach Guy Boucher
The Lightning came out strong, generating several scoring chances in the opening seconds. On the fifth shot of the game, Ryan Malone found the back of the net with help from Tom Pyatt and Brett Connolly.
Tim Wallace was called for Interference at 2:38 and the Hurricanes cashed in on the ensuing power play. Jaroslav Spacek scored on assists from Jamie McBain and Jussi Jokinen to tie it up.
Carolina took the lead at 12:29 when Jeff Skinner beat Dustin Tokarski, making his first start at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Jokinen and Chad LaRose added assists.
The Bolts tied it about five minutes later when Nate Thompson scored with helpers from James Wyman and Adam Hall.
The Lightning did everything but score in the second period, outshooting Carolina 18 to 9 (and 29 to 18 for the game) , and holding edges in hits (18-17), faceoffs (20-19) and blocked shots (15-9). Carolina goaltender Cam Ward, in spite of giving up several long rebounds, was solid throughout
Skinner regained the lead for the Hurricanes, scoring the eventual game winner at 6:37 of the third, with an assist from Bryan Allen.
LaRose added an empty netter with 21.4 seconds left to end it.
As of right now, the loss puts the Lightning five points behind Washington for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and six points behind first place Florida in the Southeastern Division
"We had our chances. They capitalized on theirs and we didn't-it's as simple as that. For the most part, we played a pretty solid hockey game. We got to move on here. It's a new day tomorrow; get some rest. We're five points out of the playoffs-who would have thought a month ago that we would be here? We have a long ways to go, but I think that guys are confident that we can do it. It's exciting, for sure." - Connolly
"There's still six more, you know? Six and one would be a pretty good homestand. Let's focus on the next one and go from there. " - Lightning forward Martin St. Louis
The Lightning will be in action again on Tuesday when they host the Boston Bruins.
- Numbers that seemed to favor the Lightning, at least after the first period: They're now 21-10-3 when scoring first. Meanwhile, Carolina is 9-20-5 when giving up the first goal.
- Ryan Malone now has a season-high point streak of six games, one shy of his career best of seven.
- Nate Thompson broke a 15-game pointless drought.
- Teddy Purcell's career-high 11-game point streak came to an end.
- The Lightning honored Vicky Westra as a Lightning Community Hero during the first period of tonight's game against the Carolina Hurricanes. Westra, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to Art for Autism. Since 2007, Westra's vision and strong belief that things can change is bringing hope to individuals, and their families, with autism. Through the nonprofit she founded, the Art for Autism Foundation, and the social enterprise she started last year, Artistas Café, she is providing job skills training and employment opportunities for young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Through Art for Autism, Westra is providing art therapy and educational materials for individuals with ASD and their families, and through Artistas Café, she is creating jobs for people who otherwise may not have had a chance to show the world and themselves what they can do. They are learning much more than how to brew coffee; they are gaining confidence, social awareness and communication skills while engaging with customers. She has taken the difficult task of educating the public that people with ASD can become active, contributing members of our society when appropriate supports are available. Westra's desire to share this breakthrough with the autism community was her inspiration for founding the Art for Autism Foundation. Begun by members of the Art for Autism Foundation, a non-profit group based in Tampa, Florida, this group is dedicated to exploring art-based therapy and treatment options for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. The foundation believes that art therapy offers an invaluable opportunity for children with autism to express their hopes, fears, joys, and dreams.