RALEIGH, N.C. – The lopsided losses on home ice were adding up for the Carolina Hurricanes, and they were beginning to wear on Joe Corvo.
“I didn’t even know what to do anymore,” Corvo said. He sure does now – especially with a two-man advantage. Corvo scored two 5-on-3 goals 39 seconds apart, and the Hurricanes beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1 on Friday night to break out of a home funk.
Jussi Jokinen scored the go-ahead goal against his former team , Eric Staal had a goal and an assist, and Ray Whitney and Sergei Samsonov had two assists apiece.
While they’ve won four straight road games for the first time since 2005-06, they had lost their previous three at the RBC Center by a combined 15-2.
“We really don’t care where we win,” coach Paul Maurice said.
They improved to 5-0 against Tampa Bay this season, and are ninth in the Eastern Conference, a point behind Florida and Buffalo.
Vaclav Prospal scored for the Lightning, who had a season-worst one shot on goal in the first period and lost for the fourth time in seven nights.
“I can’t imagine being any more down than this,” Lightning centre Jeff Halpern said. “Any time you lose and you’re not in the playoffs, it’s a miserable feeling. … Losing sucks. Being out of the playoffs sucks. Coming out and giving up leads in third periods, losing by three, four or five goals, yeah, it’s miserable.”
And they have a former teammate at least partly to thank for it.
Jokinen faced the Lightning for the first time since they dealt him to Carolina on Feb. 7 for two skaters and a draft pick. With 5 1/2 minutes left in the second, he snatched up the puck in the slot and whipped it past Mike McKenna’s glove side for his first goal with his new team.
“I think every player who has been traded, they want to win their first game (against their old team) so badly,” Jokinen said. “I’m not the exception to that.”
Then, Corvo gave the Hurricanes plenty of insurance early in the third after the Lightning were called for three penalties in a 1:07 span, giving Carolina an extended two-skater advantage.
“When you get 5-on-3s, you have to score, because if you leave six minutes of power-play time on the board … you’re tight,” Maurice said. “And then it’s a different game.”
After having three consecutive shots blocked, the offensive-minded defenceman beat McKenna with a hard blast with 16:22 remaining and then made it a three-goal game when his slapshot got past the goalie at 15:43.
“For me, it’s either a positive or a great negative if we don’t score, because that’s such a big opportunity for our team,” Corvo said. “Just to take the momentum and take over the game.”
McKenna finished with 37 saves, while his counterpart, Cam Ward, was barely tested and stopped 12 shots – but allowed the second shot he faced to get past him when Prospal’s wrist shot early in the second made it one-all.
That came after a miserable first period the Lightning clearly would prefer to forget.
They were outshot 14-1, couldn’t manage a shot on goal for the first 14 minutes, and Gary Roberts – who tried to stuff one through Ward’s pads with 5:43 left – was the only player to put the puck on net. Tampa Bay’s previous worst period came on Oct. 11 when it managed two shots in the third period of a 4-3 loss to Carolina.
“You just put it in your memory bank and remember how it feels to lose and how it feels to get outshot,” Tampa Bay coach Rick Tocchet said, “so, hopefully, the guys who come back next year and guys who want to stay in the NHL know how it feels, and how bad it feels.”
The only early scoring came midway through the period, when Staal used some nifty stickwork to put the Hurricanes up 1-0. His fourth goal in four games was his fourth of the season against the Lightning, but it was his first goal on home ice since Jan. 29 when he scored with 1:36 remaining to beat Tampa Bay 3-2.
“These are must-wins. These are big games,” Staal said. “A team like Tampa’s a team you want to jump on early, get them frustrated, and I think we skated real well to start the game. They didn’t really generate much as far as shots or chances.”
Notes: Carolina held a 41-13 shots advantage. … The teams’ four previous meetings were decided by a goal apiece. … Staal has scored three goals in two games. … Prospal has 11 points in 15 games for the Lightning. … Carolina C Rod Brind’Amour assisted on Jokinen’s goal for his first point since Jan. 27.