The Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning will meet for the first time this season on Tuesday night at Tampa, Fla., and both are anxious to put the recent past behind them.
The Lightning wasted a 3-1 third-period lead at home Saturday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs, one of their rivals in the Atlantic Division, in the second contest of Tampa Bay’s five-game homestand.
The game ended in a 4-3 overtime victory for the Leafs when John Tavares put away the Lightning much like he did in late April in the first round of the playoffs.
“It’s disappointing just the way (our) players handled the third period — the last half of the third period and overtime,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “We’re much better than that. And give Toronto a ton of credit. They did what you have to do to get points in a hockey game. They played the whole 60 minutes plus and we didn’t.”
Before his postgame presser, Cooper wondered aloud who voted for the game’s three stars then chided the media jokingly that his goaltender Jonas Johansson, who stopped a career-high 48 shots, should have received all three.
“We left it on our goalie’s shoulders,” Cooper said.
Lightning star Nikita Kucherov produced two power-play goals and an assist in the first period, marking the 15th time he has notched a three-point frame – just one short of Martin St. Louis’ franchise-record 16.
Tampa Bay has a strong, point-producing history against the Hurricanes on home ice: The club is 42-21-3 with three ties all-time against Carolina, which was a Southeast Division opponent for 14 seasons until the division was dissolved in 2013.
While the Lightning are stewing over a bad period and overtime, the Hurricanes have had an unsettling first five games during its six-game road trip that ends in Tampa.
Over the previous quintet of matches, coach Rod Brind’Amour’s crew has surrendered 27 goals while going 2-3-0 and scoring 23 of its own.
“We’ve got to regroup,” Brind’Amour said following Saturday’s 6-4 loss against the Colorado Avalanche. “We’re scoring enough goals, we just can’t stop anything from going in our net.”
During its first five games, Carolina successfully killed just 15 of 24 power plays (62.5 percent) and saw Colorado’s elite man-advantage unit go 3-for-5.
“Right now, our (penalty) kill is atrocious and everything is going in,” said Brind’Amour. “We’re going to have to re-adjust that a little bit, obviously. When you go into Tampa, they have the same kind of power play, so it’s not going to be an easy night there.
“We’ve got to get 20 guys on the same page. We’ve got a few guys here that just aren’t there yet.”
Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Jaccob Slavin and Seth Jarvis top the Hurricanes with seven points apiece through six matches. Jarvis and Teuvo Teravainen share the team lead in tallies with four each.
Naturally, the numbers in net are well below Carolina’s defensive standards that usually feature a hounding, speedy forecheck and strong play on the back end.
Goalie Frederik Andersen (2-0-0, 4.14 goals-against average) has not played since leaving the game in San Jose last Tuesday after taking a shot off the mask.
Antti Raanta (1-1-0, 4.41) has assumed the starter’s net, while backup Pyotr Kochetkov (0-2-0, 5.13) has played in two games.