The Hurricanes Offense is Finally Stymied in a Shutout Loss to the Bolts

TAMPA, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 24: The Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes fight after a goal by Nicholas Paul #20 of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the third period during a game at Amalie Arena on October 24, 2023 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 24: The Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes fight after a goal by Nicholas Paul #20 of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the third period during a game at Amalie Arena on October 24, 2023 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

The Hurricanes can’t get off the road and back to PNC Arena fast enough. After resting in Raleigh between games, the Canes flew down to Tampa Bay to meet the Lightning for the first time this season. Even without star goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, the Bolts proved to be a tough team to solve.

Sebastian Aho was a welcomed return to the lineup, though he didn’t occupy his regular spot as a center. In his first game back, Aho was on the wing next to Teuvo Teravainen. Brett Pesce was still out of commission, not making the trip with the team. Pyotr Kochetkov took the net to start the game, earning his second straight start.

Due to some breakdowns defensively, Pyotr Kochetkov had to be on his A-game early. He made a great stop to deny Brayden Point in the first few minutes. The Bolts controlled most of the play in the first period. They earned the first power play of the night, but the Hurricanes managed to kill it. Late in the period, Martin Necas was called for high-sticking in the offensive zone, and this would prove costly. Much like Saturday’s game in Colorado, the Canes couldn’t kill the late penalty. Point redirected a pass from Victor Hedman with 54 seconds left to beat Kochetkov as Tampa broke the ice.

The tides started to change in the second period as the Hurricanes found their game. Rod Brind’Amour decided to switch things up, swapping Sebastian Aho and Jordan Martinook on their respective lines. The action for the entire period was almost non-stop. The Hurricanes got their first power play of the night but couldn’t convert. Play went up and down the ice for over 13 minutes of game time before the first commercial break of the period.

For all the solid forechecking the Canes did in the period, the Bolts finally capitalized on another breakdown. Alex Barre-Boulet got Jaccob Slavin out of position and sent the puck to the point for Darren Raddysh. Barre-Boulet won the race back to the front of the net, redirecting the Raddysh shot past Pyotr Kochetkov to double Tampa Bay’s lead. It was another late-period goal allowed that seemed to kill the momentum.

The play started to get a little sloppy for the Hurricanes coming out of the second break. Too many passes in the center of the ice were being intercepted for good chances. The physical play ramped up in the third period. A lot more skirmishes were taking place after whistles. The Hurricanes had a chance just past the halfway point on the power play but were unsuccessful again. It was arguably their best power play of the night.

As time started to elapse, the writing was on the wall. Nick Paul added an insurance tally with 2:56 left. After the goal, things started to get violent. Dmitry Orlov was jumped by four Bolts yet managed to get a double minor for roughing and a game misconduct. Brendan Lemieux was also asked to hit the showers early for jawing at the referees. Nick Paul and Jack Drury squared up for a fight, and while I wouldn’t say he won, it was a good moment for Drury as he stepped up for his team. In the end, Jonas Johansson pitched a 32-save shutout to silence the Hurricanes’ offense finally.

While it was still three goals against, the effort from the defense was better. It was the team’s best defensive game of the season, albeit far from perfect. If anything, it was a tough night for Brent Burns and Jaccob Slavin. Burns was a -2 for the game, and Slavin had a tough shift on the goal that made it 2-0. The penalty kill wasn’t terrible. While they allowed the first goal of the night, they finished strong, killing the final three penalties they committed.

It’s a shame this was the night the offense stopped connecting. They’d been so good for six games yet had no answer for Jonas Johansson. The Bolts goalie did the same thing to the Hurricanes during the preseason, stopping 42 shots that night. Pyotr Kochetkov deserved better than what he got. Kochetkov made some incredible attacking saves and had no chance on any of the goals Tampa scored. Sebastian Aho looked solid in his return from injury. He played over 21 minutes and had three shots in his first action since Anaheim.

The NHL is a results-based league, and the Canes haven’t been getting the results through seven games. They finish this road trip 2-4-0, losing in their final three stops. Playing at PNC Arena probably hasn’t looked sweeter ever. They’ll get a double dose when they return, playing a back-to-back on Thursday and Friday against two opponents they met during their trip. Seattle will be first on the schedule before the Hurricanes host the Sharks on Friday.