RALEIGH, N.C. – While the first and second periods sometimes give the Tampa Bay Lightning trouble, they don’t lack for confidence in the final 20 minutes.
Steven Stamkos scored and had an assist during a four-goal third period that sent Tampa Bay to a 5-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night.
The Lightning lead the NHL this season with 33 third-period goals.
“If you look at our third-period stats, it’s unbelievable how many goals we’ve scored,” coach Guy Boucher said. “We score goals in the third period all the time.”
Benoit Pouliot, Tom Pyatt and Richard Panik had the other third-period goals for the Lightning, who snapped a first-place tie with the Hurricanes atop the Southeast Division. Marc-Andre Bergeron scored in the first to help Tampa Bay win for the third time in four games following a six-game losing streak.
Boucher said his team has been more patient during the recent stretch.
“If we are patient and in reach, we will be fine,” he said. “So we need to make sure we don’t sabotage ourselves and give away goals because we are impatient. Right now, we are working on not forcing it in the first or second, and that’s what we did today.”
Mathieu Garon made 32 saves for his second victory of the season. The first came on Jan. 22 against Carolina. Garon has allowed three goals in two games against the Hurricanes and 12 in his other three starts.
Chad LaRose and Drayson Bowman scored for the Hurricanes, who have lost three consecutive games after a 5-0-1 stretch this month. Dan Ellis made 34 saves.
Carolina was without injured regulars Tim Gleason (lower body), Joni Pitkanen (lower body), Jeff Skinner (concussion) and Jamie McBain (upper body).
“We got outworked, and they out-competed us,” Carolina coach Kirk Muller said. “That’s not acceptable. In a big game in your own rink, they outworked us. They wanted it more and they won all the battles.”
Tampa Bay opened the scoring midway through the first period when Bergeron surprised Ellis with a wrist shot from long distance. Bergeron has a point in three of his last four games.
Vincent Lecavalier set up Pouliot early in the third period, holding off Carolina rookie defenceman Ryan Murphy and centring the puck through the crease to Pouliot, who converted into the open net.
After Bowman brought Carolina within one by one-timing Riley Nash’s pass past Garon, Panik gave Tampa Bay a 3-1 lead with his first career goal. The rookie made his NHL debut on Feb. 12 against Montreal and has impressed his teammates with his skill. His goal against the Hurricanes came after he flipped the puck from one side of the net to the other and retrieved it.
“I was really excited,” Panik said. “I wasn’t all there. I blacked out for a little bit.”
Pyatt then gave Tampa Bay a three-goal edge 7:55 into the third period, 18 seconds after Panik’s tally.
LaRose and Stamkos traded goals in the game’s final 4 minutes.
The Lightning improved to 6-1-0 this season against teams in the Southeast Division. Tampa Bay is also 5-1-1 in its last seven at Carolina, including two wins this season.
The Hurricanes are 0-4-0 against the Southeast Division.
“Yes, we have injuries. Yes, we have guys playing out of their positions, and that’s tough,” Muller said. “But there’s not going to be any excuses. We got beat in a big game in our own rink. That’s not acceptable.”
NOTES: Carolina’s Kevin Westgarth played in his 100th game. … Tampa Bay couldn’t score on its three power-play chances and has converted only three of its last 32 opportunities despite ranking fifth in the NHL on the power play. … The Lightning are 8-0-0 when leading after the first period. … Carolina’s Alexander Semin left in the second period after a puck hit him in the side of the face, but he returned soon after.