The Carolina Hurricanes didn’t let the NHL All-Star break interrupt their January mojo.
All-Star defenseman Justin Faulk helped see to that. Faulk had a goal and an assist Tuesday, as did captain Eric Staal, as Carolina topped the Tampa Bay Bay Lightning 4-2.
Staal scored 22 seconds into the game and Nathan Gerbe and Jiri Tlusty also had goals for the Hurricanes (17-25-5), who have won three straight and now are 7-2-1 this month. That was enough for goalie Anton Khudobin, who had 28 saves in winning his sixth straight game.
“Obviously it’s a long break, and sometimes it’s hard to get back into the swing of things,” Faulk said. “I thought we played a pretty good 60-minute game in all areas of the game, whether power play or penalty kill, offensive zone, defensive zone. We were strong in all areas.”
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The Lightning (30-15-4) came to Raleigh leading the Eastern Conference and leading the league in goals, and had beaten the Canes nine of the past 10 games at PNC Arena. Tampa Bay had two wins over the Canes this season and had goalie Ben Bishop – 5-0-0 in his career against Carolina – in net.
But the Lightning never led, getting off to a sluggish start, spending a lot of time on the penalty kill in the second period and then falling behind 4-2 in the third. All-Star forward Steven Stamkos, who has 26 goals, was limited to two shots.
Staal and Gerbe scored in the first period, and Faulk scored on a power-play blast in the second, then teamed with Tlusty on a well-executed rush for the fourth goal. Tampa Bay’s Cedric Paquette had a first-period score, and Brian Boyle a hustling short-handed score in the second that cut the Canes’ lead to 3-2.
“They pushed back after we made it 2-0, but I thought we responded well and skated real well the rest of the game,” Eric Staal said.
After being outplayed the first 10 minutes, the Lightning spent a lot of time in the Carolina zone the rest of the first period. But Khudobin made some high-quality stops – Paquette’s goal came when the puck glanced off the skate of Canes defenseman Brett Bellemore.
“Before the game I was preparing myself to have fun,” Khudobin said. “It’s fun to play against really good teams. It’s always fun and interesting.”
Eric Staal picked up his 16th goal after the Lightning turned over the puck in its zone. Staal skated in and got off a backhander, the puck rising off the stick of defenseman Anton Stralman and past Bishop for the quickest goal of the season for the Canes.
Gerbe scored a little more the six minutes into the game. Bellemore’s shot from the point was tipped by Elias Lindholm, the puck bouncing off the backboards to an unchecked Gerbe.
Both teams scored on Carolina power plays in the second – Faulk for the Canes and Boyle on the shorthanded goal.
Faulk, who had two assists in the All-Star Game on Sunday in Columbus, scored his ninth of the season. It came after Canes winger Brad Malone first was penalized for holding, then came out of the penalty box to force a holding call on Tampa Bay’s Valtteri Filppula.
Four minutes later the Canes were back on the power play with a chance to add to the lead. But center Victor Rask, at the right point, lost the puck and Boyle was off on a breakaway for his second shorthanded goal of the season.
Tlusty banged a shot past Bishop in the third off the Faulk pass. Tlusty had briefly left the game after taking a hit in the corner.
Canes center Jordan Staal, sidelined with a broken leg the first two times the teams played this season, had two assists.
Carolina defenseman Ryan Murphy played in the AHL All-Star Classic on Monday in Utica, N.Y. Recalled Tuesday, he flew to Raleigh and had 18 minutes, 50 seconds of ice time.
The Canes topped Ottawa and Toronto in their final two games before the All-Star break, their first consecutive road wins of the season. There was no letdown Tuesday.
“It’s been a good month,” Canes coach Bill Peters said.