A heartbreaking loss. We’ve been hearing those words too much this season but last night’s match up between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Tampa Bay Lightning was so much more than heartbreaking. Frustrating is another word that doesn’t quite cover it as the Canes fall to the Lightning 4-3 in overtime after a controversial call on Alternate Captain Brandon Sutter.
The Lightning’s Tim Wallace started off the scoring in the first period with his first NHL career goal in only his third game with Tampa Bay after being claimed on waivers from the New York Islanders in February. It would also be the only goal scored in the first period and the Lightning went to the locker room with a 1-0 lead over the Canes.
Derek Joslin and Zach Boychuck were noticeably missing for essentially the remainder of the game, which seemingly had more to do with being in Coach Kirk Muller’s doghouse than anything else. Boychuck was reassigned to the Charlotte Checkers almost immediately after the game.
With Boychuck missing, Anthony Stewart was moved up to the first line centered by Eric Staal. Turned out to be a great move as Stewart put the Canes on the board in the second with a breakaway goal assisted by Staal and Jaroslav Spacek. Jussi Jokinen would get the Hurricanes the lead with an unassisted goal late in the same period. Less than two minutes later, Stewart would put another puck past Mathieu Garon for a goal that was originally credited to Jiri Tlusty, putting the Canes ahead 3-1. But the Bolts Steven Stamkos would be contained no longer and put the game within one late in the second.
In the third, a 5-on-3 power play would ultimately let the Lightning tie the game. Eric Staal and Chad LaRose would take penalties for slashing and hooking respectively. The Canes penalty kill was absolutely fierce, keeping the puck out of their zone for most of the two minutes, with a few stellar saves thrown in from Cam Ward. But a perfect PK was not to be for the Canes as Teddy Purcell scored for the Lightning with only five seconds left of 5-on-3 hockey. With no other scoring in regulation, the game was extended in to the dreaded overtime. The Lightning were 9-6 in overtime prior to this game, the Canes just 2-13.
At this point in my recap, I’m reminded of something I wrote in my preview yesterday when addressing the fact that Tim Peel would be refereeing the game.
“I’m sure many eyes will be on him tonight, and Caniacs are most likely brushing up on their “Ref You Suck!” chants. I’m truly hoping the officiating is not an issue tonight.”
Just over a minute into overtime, Andreas Nodl and Brandon Sutter were heading toward the Tampa Bay goal with the puck. Nodl took a shot, which was stopped by Garon, who was outside of the crease. Here’s where it gets tricky and I’ll tell you my take on the situation. Brandon Sutter was trying to avoid Garon and perhaps trying to protect the goalie from a collision, Stamkos pushed Sutter as he was trying to jump over the hurdle that was Garon. Regardless, Sutter was given a two minute roughing penalty and the Lightning went on the power play. The “Ref You Suck” chants were deafening in the RBC. With only :25 left in the power play, Stamkos scored the game winning goal.
To be fair, the call was made by official Francios St Lauren. To be blunt, it was still a terrible call. Stamkos should have taken a penalty for interference as it looked to me like Sutter almost avoided Garon, and might have just nicked him if Stamkos hadn’t intervened. Want to see it again? Here it is, I can’t look.
That being said, there were a lot of positives Saturday night in Raleigh. First of all, Brandon Sutter DID NOT GET HURT. Did that fall look terrible to anyone else? Cam Ward played his 400th NHL game. Eric Staal extended his point streak to 11 games with his two assists. Anthony Stewart continues to contribute with two goals. Let’s see if this keeps him on the first line with Staal and Tlusty.
With a Canes loss, the season series against Tampa Bay is now 2-3. The two teams meet again Saturday, March 10 in Tampa for the final game of the series.
The Hurricanes will hit the road for the next five games and will face the Capitals on Tuesday, March 6. The Canes have played their last game in the RBC Center as their next home game on March 15 will be in the newly named PNC Arena.