TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Curtis McElhinney stopped 31 shots and picked up an assist to lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 3-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night.
Mikhail Sergachev, Yanni Gourde and Barclay Goodrow all scored for Tampa Bay, which won three of the four consecutive meetings between the teams.
“When you get into a series where you are playing a team four straight, you get pretty familiar with yourself,’’ said McElhinney, who made his third start of the season. “There wasn’t much room out there. I have to really hand it to our guys, I thought we really hung in there. That’s a huge two points for everybody in that dressing room.’’
Brett Pesce scored the lone goal for Carolina, which has lost three straight games in regulation for the first time since Dec. 21-27, 2019. James Reimer finished with 19 saves.
“It’s deflating, no question. We were the better team tonight,’’ Carolina head coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “This might’ve been our best game overall against them. We got a lot of grade-As and didn’t give up much hardly. I was really, really happy.
“But unfortunately that’s hockey. You get some bad bounces and things don’t go your way.’’
After lamenting their starts in the previous two games, the Hurricanes started the game strong Thursday and registered six of the seven opening shots of the game. Carolina was rewarded with the first goal on a 2-on-1 with Jesper Fast feeding the pass across to Pesce, who jumped up on the rush, for a 1-0 lead at 14:23 of the first period.
After the teams kept trading — and failing to convert — on power-play chances, Tampa Bay tied the game at even strength. Off an offensive zone faceoff, Brayden Point won the draw clean back to Sergachev, who slipped a forehand under the arm of Reimer for his first goal of the season at 12:39 of the second period.
“I’ve been waiting 18 games now, so it’s nice,’’ Sergachev said. “And it came at the right time — we needed a goal and that one went in.’’
Tampa Bay took the lead for the first time early in the third as Victor Hedman hit Gourde with a stretch pass just outside the Carolina blue line. Gourde skated to the top of the right circle before ripping a slap shot to the far post for his fifth of the season at 6:22.
McElhinney picked up the secondary assist on the play for his fifth career NHL point, and first with the Lightning.
“Let’s be honest, the game wasn’t pretty and our game was subpar and not what we are used to,’’ Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “However, our gamesmanship was outstanding and there is something to be said for that. And when things aren’t going right, you have to find ways to game things out — and that’s what we did.’’
Goodrow, as he did Wednesday, sealed the victory with an empty-net goal after intercepting Jaccob Slavin’s pass attempt just outside the Carolina blue line. The goal, his fifth of the season, came with 1:16 left.
“That’s a great team. There’s a reason why they are defending champions,’’ Carolina forward Sebastien Aho said. “The games are hard, but that’s how it should be. Tough games and two teams out there competing. We didn’t get the results we wanted, but those games are helpful games.’’
Tampa Bay D Erik Cernak did not play the final 12:13 of the second period after blocking a shot on the penalty kill and did not return for the start of the third period. The team announced Cernak would miss the remainder of the game after suffering an undisclosed lower body injury.
Carolina D Jake Gardiner, who played in Wednesday’s game, was a scratch for the third time in four games. Gardiner has no goals, seven assists and is a plus-3 in 16 games.
Hurricanes: At Florida on Saturday.
Lightning: Host Dallas on Saturday.
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