Wesley's touch surfaces

Staff WriterNovember 24, 2007 

— They still might not be able to handle the second period, but the Carolina Hurricanes finally solved the rest of their Tampa Bay Lightning problem.

After a lackluster second that saw the Lightning score two goals, the Hurricanes roared back in the third for a 4-3 victory thanks to a Glen Wesley goal.

The win is Carolina's first over Tampa Bay this season, which came into the game outscoring the Canes 11-2.

"I think it's good mentally," said Justin Williams, who scored the tying goal in the third. "Because we lost two games to Tampa Bay and they weren't really games. They were semi-blowouts, so I think this is good for our whole mentality against Tampa Bay that they don't have our number."

The win is the Canes' second in their last five games and pushes their Southeast Division lead to seven points.

The comeback was the first time in seven games this season where the Hurricanes won when trailing after the first two periods.

And going into the third, the Canes certainly didn't look like they'd have the mojo to get back in it.

In the second period, the Canes took just three shots and allowed the Martin St. Louis-Vincent Lecavalier-Vaclav Prospal line to continue wreaking havoc. The trio have a combined 20 points against Carolina this season.

But after the second intermission, the Hurricanes hustled, moved, shot and did everything they could to knock the Lightning back and seize momentum.

"We were only down by two and that's a dangerous lead in hockey," Chad LaRose said. "We just tried to stay focused and get pucks to the net. Coach came in [during intermission] and said we weren't going to win without getting pucks at the net."

First, LaRose knocked the puck loose by checking a Tampa Bay defenseman into the boards. Matt Cullen picked up the puck and found Ray Whitney, who fired the goal in to spark the comeback.

"Enough was enough," said Staal, who scored the Canes' first goal -- the 100th of his career -- and made a huge impact on its last. "We just came out of that with a lot of fire, with the attitude that we were going to win this game. Obviously Ray's goal was big, and it kind of the got the crowd energized and it filtered through the whole team."

Whitney's goal also ignited the crowd of 18,033, which had grown mostly silent during the second.

When Justin Williams -- who took four costly penalties in Wednesday's 6-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers -- tied the score, the building erupted, making Wesley's game-winner seem almost destined.

"When you get that kind of momentum, especially built up in your home rink -- the fans were very enthusiastic and gave us a huge lift," Wesley said. "When that happens, you seem to carry the momentum and it seemed to carry on for the rest of the game."

Wesley's goal was created in part by a screen from Staal and work by Erik Cole, who returned for his first game since Nov. 12 when he suffered a neck injury against Florida.

The goal was Wesley's first since Feb. 22, when he scored short-handed for the game-winner in overtime against the Flyers.

"I guess I was due," Wesley joked.

Wesley wasn't the only feeling they'd gotten their due.

With the comeback and the win over Tampa Bay, the Canes can hit the road to Washington for tonight's game and feel encouraged.

rachel.carter@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-8953

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