TAMPA, Fla. – Vincent Lecavalier turned a slow start into a dominating performance.
Lecavalier had three goals and two assists to set a team record with his sixth consecutive multi-point game, leading the Tampa Bay Lightning past the Carolina Hurricanes 6-1 on Wednesday night.
Lecavalier scored twice and also assisted on goals by Paul Ranger and Martin St. Louis during a five-goal second period that put the Lightning ahead 5-0. The centre, who has five goals and 11 assists over his past six games, completed the hat trick with a short-handed breakaway goal with 5:09 remaining in the third.
“I couldn’t find him in the first period,” Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella said. “It’s unbelievable how he played in the second period.”
Johan Holmqvist made 28 saves for the Lightning, who have won four in a row after a six-game skid. Tampa Bay also got a goal from Vinny Prospal.
Jeff Hamilton scored for Carolina, which has lost just twice – both to Tampa Bay – in its last six games. Hurricanes goalie John Grahame, a former Tampa Bay starter, allowed the five second-period goals on 13 shots.
“Just kind of bad luck for Johnny,” Lecavalier said. “It’s one of those games where you can play great and not produce at all, or you can play mediocre in the first, then score the first goal and it starts rolling. Tonight was that.”
Carolina left wing Erik Cole missed the game with a neck injury and is listed as day to day. Cole, taken off the ice on a stretcher after crashing headfirst into Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun during Monday’s game at Florida, will be re-evaluated when the team returns home Thursday.
Ranger opened the scoring at 1:27 of the second off a pass from Lecavalier. After Lecavalier made it 2-0 at 4:12, he set up St. Louis’ goal at 12:32.
Lecavalier made it 4-0 when scored on a backhander at 14:24. Prospal closed out Tampa Bay’s five-goal second with 1:42 left in the period.
“You can’t give a guy like that opportunities like that all night,” Carolina defenceman Mike Commodore said. “He’s going to score. We can’t let Lecavalier have a hat trick.”
Holmqvist made in-close saves on Rod Brind’Amour and Cory Stillman during a power play late in the second. He lost his shutout bid when Hamilton scored a power-play goal with 12:38 left to play.
“Their best players were their best players again tonight, and our best players have got to be better,” Hurricanes centre Eric Staal said. “That’s kind of what it boils down to.”
Notes: Lecavalier has five career three-goal games. He was plus-5 for the game … Holmqvist has gone 36 games since his only career shutout, coming last Feb. 1 against the Hurricanes. … Carolina LW Ray Whitney had his 10-game point streak end. He had seven goals and 17 points over the stretch. … St. Louis has a six-game point streak. … Brad Richards (March 2006) and St. Louis (November 2006) had shared the Lightning consecutive multi-point games record with five.