The Carolina Hurricanes found a way to win a road game Thursday.
Strike first. Strike often. Then keep pushing.
The Canes did that against the Tampa Bay Lightning, scoring four times in the first period in taking a 5-2 victory at Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Jiri Tlusty scored twice, and Tuomo Ruutu and Jay Harrison each had a goal in the opening period. Eric Staal had three assists in the most impressive first period - perhaps any period - by the Canes this season.
"In the first period we were aggressive - we were on the attack," Staal said. "We were rewarded with some opportunities and cashed in. We tried to get (Tlusty) that third one, but it was a good effort by our line and a good road win for us."
The Lightning has not won a game since a 5-2 victory over the Canes on New Year's Eve. Tampa Bay is 0-4-1 since then and could not overcome the 4-1 first-period deficit in order to win its first game of 2012.
"We owed them a little bit from the last time, because we didn't show up," Tlusty said of the loss Dec. 31. "We didn't show our game the last time, and we had it in our minds."
Teddy Purcell scored for Tampa Bay early in the second period, but Cam Ward made the big stops in goal,, and the Canes were gritty enough over the final two periods. Tim Brent's goal late in regulation pushed the lead to 5-2 and had many fans heading home.
The Hurricanes had not won a road game since Dec. 7, when they beat the Edmonton Oilers 5-2. That was the same night forward Jeff Skinner suffered a concussion that would knock him out of the next 14 games.
The Canes had hoped Skinner, who has been cleared for contact, might return Thursday. But a decision was made to give him a few more contact practices before allowing him to play.
The Canes (15-23-7) didn't need Skinner this night as Staal, who was not selected for the 2012 NHL All-Star Game, played like an all-star. Staal's three assists gave him 301 for his career and moved him past Rod Brind'Amour as the Canes' career leader since the franchise relocated.
Staal was not aware that he had passed Brind'Amour's total.
"That's something cool for sure," Staal said. "Any time you can be among those players, it's an honor."
Staal extended his point streak to four games and has 13 points in his last seven. His line, with Ruutu and Tlusty, had nine points in the game.
Staal first set up Ruutu's goal with a crisp centering pass from behind the Lightning net. He then hit the post with a shot. The rebound went to Tlusty in the slot for his first goal of the night and a 2-0 lead.
Nate Thompson got Tampa Bay (17-21-4) on the board, converting on a breakaway after a Carolina turnover. But the Canes quickly bounced back as Harrison unloaded a shot off the left wing 34 seconds later, and Harrison's sixth of the season pushed the lead to 3-1.
That was it for Lightning goalie Mathieu Garon, who was pulled by coach Guy Boucher after allowing three goals on eight shots. Dwayne Roloson relieved Garon, but Tlusty soon struck for his second goal of the game.
Staal took a shot that Roloson blocked, but the rebound hit Tlusty in the shoulder and got past Roloson for a 4-1 lead.
"I'm really happy with the way we skated tonight and the way we competed," Canes coach Kirk Muller said. "We created some good chances and were fortunate to get some goals on those plays."
The net came off its moorings on the play, but the play was reviewed. It was ruled the puck crossed the goal line before the net was dislodged.
Purcell's goal early in the third pulled the Lightning to 4-2. Roloson was doing his part in net, and the home team steadied.
But Brent's goal was the clincher for the Canes, 5-12-4 on the road this season.