Bolts’ Stars Takeover, Hand Hurricanes an Embarrassing 8-2 Loss at Home

RALEIGH, NC - NOVEMBER 24:Luke Glendening #11 of the Tampa Bay Lightning scores a goal agains Antti Raanta #32 of the Carolina Hurricanes during the third period of the game at PNC Arena on November 24, 2023 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Lighting defeat Hurricanes 8-2. (Photo by Jaylynn Nash/Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC - NOVEMBER 24:Luke Glendening #11 of the Tampa Bay Lightning scores a goal agains Antti Raanta #32 of the Carolina Hurricanes during the third period of the game at PNC Arena on November 24, 2023 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Lighting defeat Hurricanes 8-2. (Photo by Jaylynn Nash/Getty Images) /

Coming off a great win over Edmonton the night before Thanksgiving, the Carolina Hurricanes were riding high heading into the fourth game of their homestand. The Tampa Bay Lightning surged into town for the first meeting in Raleigh and the final meeting of the season series, with each team splitting in Tampa with shutout wins by Jonas Johansson and Pyotr Kochetkov. With fans out in droves on Black Friday, PNC Arena was rocking for the rubber match.

The goaltending matchup provided optimism for both sides. Antti Raanta got the start after leaving Wednesday’s win during the first intermission for precautionary reasons. For Tampa Bay, Andrei Vasilevskiy made his debut after missing the start of the season recovering from back surgery. With the former Vezina winner back between the pipes, the Bolts were ready to do some damage.

With the score ending up as lopsided as it did, you might have forgotten the Hurricanes were far and away the better team in the first period. Tampa Bay’s only shot was by Tyler Motte from center ice. The Canes did a great job of taking away Tampa’s time and space. Eventually, the fourth line broke through. All three forwards connected, with Jack Drury’s pass from behind the net finding Stefan Noesen out front to make it 1-0 after 20 minutes.

Then, the wheels fell off the bus. The one thing you can’t do against the Lightning is take penalties. Andrei Svechnikov is called for tripping 31 seconds into the second period. Steven Stamkos scores. Jesperi Kotkaniemi is called for tripping. Nikita Kucherov scores. Michael Bunting is assessed a double-minor for high-sticking. Brayden Point scores five seconds later. After recording one shot in the first period, Tampa scored on their first three shots of the second. The Canes got one back on the power play late in the period as Bunting ripped a clapper past Andrei Vasilevskiy, giving us hope we’d see them make a comeback in the third.

I’m not sure the Hurricanes have played a worse period in the last few years than they did in this game. The only one that comes to mind is the third period in the game against the Rangers at home last season when Artemi Panarin scored four goals. Brandon Hagel, Luke Glendening, Nikita Kucherov again, and Brayden Point twice found the back of the net in the third, giving Tampa Bay an 8-2 win.

Let’s have a candid discussion about what we just saw. Special teams killed the Hurricanes. Tampa Bay’s power play is incredible, and they showed why in this game. Even after the Canes did a great job of forcing the Bolts down the ice, they always managed to come back. Antti Raanta had no chance on any of their goals in the second period, though it doesn’t excuse the rest of his game.

The difference was the power play’s inability to respond. Yes, Michael Bunting did score on the power play. Otherwise, the power play was dormant. There will be calls to insert Tony DeAngelo back into the lineup, and I’m not against that. DeAngelo’s presence on the power play is noticeable and always has been. However, it shouldn’t be at the expense of Dmitry Orlov or Jalen Chatfield as the third pair because both were good in this one. You can’t get six power plays and only convert on one, especially when your opponent scored four times on their five chances.

Is the answer to go 11/7? If so, who on the fourth line are you taking out? Michael Bunting factored on both goals. Stefan Noesen scored a goal. Jack Drury has been playing well, scoring points in three of the last four games. They have been the Canes’ most consistent line. There’s no surefire solution that satisfies what the Hurricanes need right now. You need the power play to produce, but you would likely be doing so by either breaking up your best defensive pair or your best line from this game.

Antti Raanta was historically bad in a building that he’s been historically good in. He only faced one shot in the first 20 minutes, and it honestly wasn’t even a shot. Then, he allowed more goals (8) than he made saves (5) in the final 40. As I’ve already said, I’m not putting the second period on him. The third period was atrocious. In a 3-2 game, he has to stop Brandon Hagel’s shot. Jordan Staal didn’t defend it well, but that can’t go in. The same goes for Luke Glendening’s goal. He didn’t handle the initial shot well, allowing the wrap-around to sneak through. After that, everything else was inconsequential.

Finally, we have the incident with Auston Watson at the end of the game. For context, the Lightning are still stewing after Michael Bunting was ejected and suspended three games during the postseason for a high hit on Erik Cernak in Game 1 during Tampa’s series with Toronto in April. Tanner Jeannot made Bunting step up during the last meeting, and they fought in the first two minutes. Traditionally, it should be over there. However, there were clearly unresolved issues. Bunting was in the middle of things all night with Watson, Jeannot, and Cernak, leading Watson to challenge Bunting to a fight at the end of the game. Nothing happened as both players were escorted off the ice, with Watson giving a final wave to the crowd on his way out.

Bolts fans can defend Watson all they want, but this was classless. Despite popular opinion, Bunting has answered for the hit through his suspension and fight with Jeannot. The issue should be squashed. This isn’t like the old days when players could run roughshod and enact vigilante justice when they felt like it. It was low, even for Watson. Fortunately, that’s the last we’ll see of Tampa Bay during the regular season.

The homestand will come to an end on Sunday as the Columbus Blue Jackets come to town for a late afternoon tilt at PNC Arena. The Hurricanes will hit the road to face the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday but will be back in Raleigh for the next two against the Islanders and Sabres before another long Western road trip.