The Carolina Hurricanes played hard for the most part and did some good things Friday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Just not hard enough or good enough to win.
The Lightning made off with a 3-0 victory at PNC Arena, getting a big game in net from goaltender Ben Bishop. Steven Stamkos scored his 10th goal of the season, and Victor Hedman and Alex Killorn also had even-strength goals as Tampa Bay boosted its record to 9-4-0.
Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller was disappointed by his team’s fourth straight loss – but only to a point. Justin Peters was effective in net, he said. The Canes (4-6-3) moved the puck well on the power play and killed off their penalties. Newcomer Manny Malhotra won 15 of 20 faceoffs in his first game.
“I thought our goalie was good tonight, but he didn’t win the game,” Muller said. “I thought our five-on-five (play) was good tonight, but we lost the five-on-five. Power play was good. I thought they did all the stuff they were supposed to do and moved it around, but didn’t score a goal.
“I think what we have to do is stay the course. We just have to be a little bit better in all the areas that make a difference in a win and a loss. No one is going to panic.”
Bishop, whose 6-foot-7 frame swallows up the net, had 31 saves in his first shutout of the season and fourth of his career. The Canes had 26 shots in the final two periods but couldn’t find a way to beat a goalie who now has won eight of 10 starts this season.
“He obviously takes up a lot of the net but it comes down to hunger around the net,” Canes defenseman Ryan Murphy said. “We have to have a more hungry mentality, especially on the power play. We had our chances and we didn’t capitalize like they did.”
The Hurricanes managed five shots on four power plays. Trailing 1-0 after the second period, they began the third with fresh ice and 61 seconds of power-play time but couldn’t score, and later negated another power play when Eric Staal was called for hooking.
After a scoreless first period, the first goal of the game was scored by a defenseman who slapped the puck five feet wide of the net.
Hedman, from the left wing, banged the puck off the end boards. It then went off Peters, who nudged it over the goal line with his right pad at nine minutes, 54 seconds of the second.
“Just a little mental error on my part,” Peters said. “I’ve got to get to the post a little quicker and that doesn’t happen.”
Stamkos’ goal made it 2-0 midway through the third, the flashy forward batting the puck out of the air, Peters said. Peters had stoned Stamkos four or five times during the game, once stopping him after a Stamkos steal and breakaway in the second period.
“We did a good job for the most part of the game shutting them down and limiting their chances,” Peters said.
Killorn’s goal came on a two-on-one with Martin St. Louis with about three minutes left in regulation.
“It was a tight game going into the third period,” Staal said. “Those are the moments you have to find a way to get the job done, especially at home.”
The Canes haven’t done that very well against the Lightning, their former Southeast Division rivals who now have won eight of the past nine at PNC Arena. Carolina is 1-3-3 at home this season and the turnout of 14,828 Friday was its smallest in the seven games.
“We’ve got to find a way,” Staal said of the losing streak. “You want to stop these things as soon as possible.”
The Canes played a third straight game without forward Jeff Skinner, the team’s top scorer who is out with an upper-body injury. Skinner, who is on injured reserve, will not play Saturday in Carolina’s road game against the New York Rangers.
“We’re not going to make excuses about anyone not being in the lineup right now,” Staal said. “We’ve got enough talent in the room.”