Jeff Skinner and Chad LaRose provided all the offense that Cam Ward would need, propelling the Carolina Hurricanes to an important 4-2 victory over their Southeast Division rival Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Carolina Hurricanes got two goals each from Jeff Skinner and Chad LaRose and a big effort from their penalty-killing unit to kill off a pivotal five-on-three Tampa Bay Lightning power play as the 'Canes beat the Bolts, 4-2 at the RBC Center in Raleigh Tuesday night.
The Hurricanes dominated play in the opening period, outshooting Tampa by a 19-7 count, but it was the visiting Lightning who would break through first on the scoreboard.
Carolina goaltender Cam Ward stopped defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron's blueline blast, but was unable to stop Teddy Purcell's rebound shot from the slot. Purcell's fourth of the season gave Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead at the 15:14 mark.
Lightning netminder Dwayne Roloson tripped Eric Staal during a late-period Hurricane flurry, and the home team would use the man advantage to tie the game. LaRose was able to shovel the rebound of a Jay Harrison shot past Roloson with just two ticks of the clock remaining on the Carolina power play, knotting the game at 1-1 with just 1:39 left in the first.
The late goal was one major momentum shift on the night, as it appeared that Tampa would go to the locker room with a lead despite being badly outshot.
Skinner would net the first of his two second period tallies early on in the second, finishing off a fantastic individual stickhandling effort by snapping a wrist shot past Roloson just 22 seconds into the middle frame to give the Hurricanes a 2-1 lead.
Just under five minutes into the second period, two penalties -- a tripping call on Staal, and a hooking minor on LaRose -- were called concurrently, and left Carolina in a precarious position down two men. Ward and the 'Canes penalty killers put forth a yeomen's effort, holding the dangerous Tampa power play off the board.
The 19-year-old Skinner would strike again at the midway point of the second period. He and Jussi Jokinen took advantage of the fact that Lightning defender Eric Brewer's stick had broken, and worked a give-and-go to perfection. Jokinen slipped the puck across the goalmouth -- right past Brewer, who could only watch the pass go by -- and Skinner made no mistake for his sixth goal of the year just to Roloson's left to make it a 3-1 score heading into the third.
The 2011 Calder Trophy winner as the NHL's top rookie is proving last year was not a fluke, as Skinner now has six goals and 12 points in 12 games this season.
Vincent Lecavalier came close to cutting the deficit to one late in the second, as his slapper from the top of the left circle snuck through Ward's equipment, but hit the far side post. Ward was able to pounce on the puck before any Lightning skaters could get to it.
The ice was tilted in Tampa's favor for most of the third stanza, as they outshot the Hurricanes 13-4. Rookie Brett Connolly brought the Bolts back to within just one goal, cutting the deficit to 3-2 with his first career NHL goal with just 5:44 remaining. Connolly finished off a furious shift with Martin St. Louis and Lecavalier by tucking the puck past Ward from a sharp angle from just to the right of the goalie.
The opportunity for the Lightning to tie the contest didn't last very long, however, as LaRose notched his second of the night just 54 seconds later. It was one that Roloson would definitely like to have back, as the unscreened wrist shot somehow squeezed through the Tampa netminder to restore the two-goal Carolina lead and provide the eventual final score.
Ward improved his record this season to 5-2-2, while the 42-year-old Roloson dropped to just 2-3-2.
With the win, the Hurricanes leap-frogged past the Lightning into a second-place tie with the idle Florida Panthers in the Southeast Division with 13 points (5-4-3).
On the downside of such a big divisional win was the fact that the 'Canes lost Jokinen early in the third period with "a lower body injury" (appeared to be his left knee). The extent of the injury is not known, but he did not return to the game.
For more on the game from the Carolina perspective, check in with Hurricanes blog Canes Country. For more from the Tampa Bay perspective, check in with SB Nation Tampa Bay and Lightning blog Raw Charge.