Vaclav Prospal scored on the final play of a shootout to lead the Lightning past the Carolina Hurricanes 6-5 Saturday night, giving Tampa Bay its seventh win in eight games.
Prospal and Martin St. Louis each had a goal and two assists to lead the Lightning, who scored late in the third to force overtime. Vincent Lecavalier, Paul Ranger and Filip Kuba also scored goals for Tampa Bay.
It hardly was a textbook win, considering Carolina took a 35-29 shot advantage and an early lead that kept Tampa Bay fighting uphill much of the night. Still, Prospal’s goal – the only one in the shootout – kept the Lightning moving forward heading into the all-star break.
“The biggest point with our team tonight was just the fight that they had,” Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella said. “To come back the way we did as many times as we did tonight, then finally get it done, it’s good for them and they deserve it.”
Eric Staal scored two goals for the Hurricanes, who suffered their second straight home loss heading into the break. Ray Whitney and Andrew Ladd each added a goal while Scott Walker finished with a goal and two assists.
Prospal finally ended a back-and-forth game with the eighth shot in the shootout, beating Cam Ward to the upper left side. That came after Marc Denis denied Whitney, Staal, Rod Brind’Amour and Justin Williams.
“It’s good to win against a divisional rival,” Prospal said. “We managed to come from behind to win the game. Even though it was a shootout, it is still a ‘W’ for us. We’re happy with the result.”
That handed the defending Stanley Cup champions their first loss in 17 games when leading after the first period and dropped them to 0-4 in the shootout.
“Obviously you want to get the win when you get to the shootout and we’ve got great shooters in here,” Staal said. “It’s just not going to the back of the net and it’s frustrating for sure. You want to get those extra points. Those are big, and we didn’t get it done.”
The Hurricanes looked poised to win when Walker fired a shot past Denis to make it 5-4 at 9:31 of the third period. But Kuba buried a shot past Ward while skating in on the left side with less than three minutes left to force the extra period.
The Hurricanes got off to a quick start, getting a pair of first-period goals from Staal off assists from Walker for a 2-1 lead. Whitney increased that to 3-1 with a goal in the first minute of the second period, a score that proved to be just the start of a wild 20 minutes in which the teams combined for five goals.
Ranger and St. Louis scored to erase a 4-2 deficit and tie it heading into the final period.
“We just stayed with it and made some big plays at key times to get back in the game,” St. Louis said.
NOTES: Lecavalier and St. Louis each scored their 30th goals, marking the fourth straight season each has reached that mark. Lecavalier also pushed his point streak to 10 games. … Ladd managed his first goal since scoring against Ottawa on Nov. 28. The second-year forward had missed nine games after undergoing an emergency appendectomy on Dec. 14. … Carolina D Niclas Wallin was scratched with a lower-body injury suffered Thursday against Washington while Tampa Bay D Luke Richardson was a healthy scratch for the sixth straight game. … The game was the nightcap of a college basketball-hockey doubleheader at the RBC Center. On Saturday afternoon, No. 14 Duke beat host North Carolina State 79-56. Crews then converted the arena for the hockey game in an hour and 11 minutes.