RALEIGH, N.C. – Rick Tocchet lost his debut as Tampa Bay Lightning coach when Tuomo Ruutu and Rod Brind’Amour scored in the shootout and Cam Ward stopped two shots in the tiebreaker to lead the Carolina Hurricanes to a 3-2 victory Sunday.
Tocchet became a head coach for the first time when Barry Melrose was fired Friday after Tampa Bay lost three straight games. A veteran of 18 NHL seasons, Tocchet perhaps is best known for his role in a sports betting ring that led to a league suspension.
He rejoined the Phoenix Coyotes as an assistant coach in February, then was hired by Melrose in the off-season.
Vincent Lecavalier and Jussi Jokinen both failed to score in the shootout, giving the Hurricanes only their second victory in six games. Brind’Amour also scored in regulation to move out of a tie for 50th on the career NHL scoring list.
One of Tocchet’s first decisions was to reunite the line of Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Vinny Prospal, which had been separated for a game by Melrose, and it paid immediate dividends. Lecavalier and St. Louis scored in the same game for the first time this season to give the Lightning a 2-0 lead.
Carolina rallied in the second period. Wade Brookbank gathered a rebound with his back to the net and whirled to put the puck in the net to cut the deficit to 2-1. About 90 seconds later, Brind’Amour gathered in a beautiful pass from Ray Whitney and sent a low shot passed goalie Mike Smith.
Both of those tallies came after the Lightning appeared to get a break. Lecavalier hopped over the boards to get on the ice, and the puck bounced off his skate before Prospal could get to the bench. Instead of a call for too many men on the ice, the officials allowed play to continue, and Lecavalier scored off an assist from Mark Recchi to make it 2-0.
The Hurricanes dominated the opening period, but Smith kept them out of the net with several nifty saves. He often kicked a shot aside on one side of the net and slid over to the other side of the crease to hold Carolina at bay.
And his solid play helped the Lightning take the lead midway through the first period. Radim Vrbata came out of the penalty box and led a rush into Carolina’s zone, with St. Louis racing alone ahead of the defence.
A cross-ice pass led St. Louis perfectly, and when Ward came out to meet him, he sent a high shot into the top of the goal.
Notes: Only three players in NHL history have 400 career goals and 2,500 career penalty minutes, and two are with the Lightning: Tocchet and left wing Gary Roberts each have done it, along with Pat Verbeek. … Brookbank, who splits time between defence and forward, got his first points of the season.