Vinik may not have known this, but when he bought the Lightning he got ownership of the Carolina Hurricanes, too.
Ben Bishop stopped 48 of 51 shots for the victory. Whereas yesterday Ben wasn't a difference maker, tonight he was the first, second, and third stars for the Lightning. He made the big saves and a little luck and opportunism did the rest.
6:09 TB Barberio (1), (Killorn, Palat)(PP)
7:32 TB Palat (10), (St Louis, Johnson)
15:07 TB Kucherov (8), (Pyatt, Malone)
0:24 TB Purcell (10), (Gudas, Carle)
1:46 CAR Semin (9), (E. Staal)(PP)
05:40 CAR E. Staal (11), (unassisted)
8:12 TB Barberio (2), (Brewer, Palat)
6:14 CAR Hainsey (4), (Liles, Tlusty)
Mark Barberio and Bishop were the game's first and second stars.
It was pretty clear in this one that the Lightning had zero left in the tank after the emotional game yesterday. They were already running on fumes having recently completed a string of games that had them traveling to the far corners of North America and back. Fortunately for the Lightning they got an excellent goaltending performance, Carolina didn't, and they got quite a lot of luck sprinkled in, too. A broken stick aided in the Lightning's first goal, the third and fifth goals had elements of fortuitous bounces in them, and the Lightning's fourth goal came off a misplay by Carolina's backup, Khudobin, after the Lightning chased the starter Peters (sorry, Tripp Tracy, you'll have to keep the Peters for Vezina balloon drop under wraps this time).
It's funny how some teams just have other team's numbers. For years the Lightning owned the Atlanta Thrashers just as for years the Ottawa Senators had the Lightning's. Recently, the Lightning have owned the Carolina Hurricanes, including a regular season concluding victory that knocked the Hurricanes out of playoff contention in one of those years. It's just one of those things. The Lightning have to really try to lose to Carolina, and as much as they did so tonight, they couldn't help but get 2 points. I'll take it, and the end result is that at the 50 game mark of the season the Lightning managed to collect 11 of the minimum 12 points they wanted out of segment 5 of the season. That means they retain 3 insurance points going into segment 6, which should see the return of Steven Stamkos around game 6 or 7 of the segment. So, they're very close to have surviving an injury that many thought would cripple the young club, which is a tribute to the players and coaching staff. Even more impressive, the victory today moves the Lightning into a tie again with Boston for the Atlantic Division lead, though the B's retain 2 games in hand. If they can stay even with Boston until A.) Stammer gets back in the lineup, and B.) Stammer gets the rust off, they've got a chance to go banner hunting. That's something to think about in March though. For now? They need to focus on getting at least 12 points out of the next 10 games.
Barberio had 2 goals and was +2 with 2 penalty minutes and 4 shots in 17:11. Stepping up into the PP spot vacated by the injured Victor Hedman, Barberio showed good awareness to spot that a Carolina defender had left to go to the bench after breaking their stick, leading him to jump up for a tap-in for his first NHL goal. He later benefited from some luck as a centering feed ricocheted to him in the high slot where he unleashed a low slapper that ramped up a Carolina defender's stick into the top corner for his second NHL goal. Congratulations to the young man. Yesterday, I think he had his best defensive game in the NHL and tonight he had his best offensive showing in the NHL. You hope it portends a big stretch run of the season.
J.P. Cote was -1 in 7:45. He got his pocket picked trying to move the puck at center ice, which led to Eric Staal's goal off a 2-on-1 that developed from it. Not good.
J.T. Brown had 3 shots and 1 hit in 13:05. With the Lightning trying to weather the storm in the second half of the game, Brown's line with Kucherov and Thompson was the only line that seemed to really have their legs and they strung together some key forechecking shifts, including one after Carolina's third goal where they did everything but light the lamp.
Nikita Kucherov had a goal and was +1 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 13:08. His goal came on another bit of luck with a deflected centering feed that bounded to him in the slot all alone for the quick release finish. If you're wondering, 8 goals in 27 games projects to 24 goals over 82. Not a bad rookie campaign, I should think.