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Lightning Down Hurricanes Behind Third Period Surge

TAMPA BAY, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – The Tampa Bay Lightning had to fight off the impeccably good goaltending of Carolina Hurricanes goalie Petr Mrazek and a strong Hurricanes forecheck for nearly two-and-a-half periods before two timely power play goals by Ondrej Palat and Brayden Point allowed the Lightning to eclipse Carolina 3-1 at Amalie Arena on Thursday evening.

It was the sixth time this season that Tampa Bay had come from behind in the third period to secure a win as Lightning victories have become more and more dramatic. Even more impressive is that the Lightning extended their home win streak to 9-0-0, one win shy of their 2014-15 record.

“I think it is confidence and our guys feeling that no lead is insurmountable because obviously you don’t want to be in that spot,” said center Brayden Point, who added his 27th and 28th goals of the season, “We just have a confidence that we are not out of it and we are just sticking with it.”

Trailing 1-0 midway through the third period, Lightning center Steven Stamkos lined up a shot in the left circle, but it was deflected by Carolina’s Justin Faulk before Palat gathered it and pushed it by Mrazek on the right side.

The goal picked up an entire arena which was sitting on its hands waiting for more heroics from a hockey team that has found so many different ways to win in its 34-8-2 start.

The goal was Palat’s third of the season as Stamkos collected his 25th assist.

Palat noted that they puck hit his bald and went into the net at 11:58 in the third period. “It wasn’t our best game but we found a way again,” said Palat. “This is a good team–Carolina–so they were on top of us and they are hard to play against, but we got two points.”

Drama ensued earlier in the second period when, at the 10:49 mark, Tampa Bay had seemingly tied the contest at 1-1 when Point collected a loose puck on a Hurricanes turnover and fired it on the breakaway off the left blocker of Mrazek. He displayed impeccable hand-eye coordination in staying with the rejection and flipping it by Mrazek on the second try.

However, the Lightning were stuck with an offsides penalty on Tyler Johnson as the officials said he was not all the way off the ice as Point entered the zone. Point’s goal was waved off. 

“Part of video replay was–we knew it,” said Tampa Bay coach John Cooper. “The replay shown in the arena didn’t show the offsides and the crowd started going nuts and to be honest, I thought our game really picked up on a non-goal call on an offsides. We needed something and the crowd really helped us out.”

Nikita Kucherov then had two scoring chances on shots close to the net after Palat’s game-tying goal. Mrazek continued to play tough and stopped one just outside the crease before Kucherov hit the top of the goal post on a snapshot on the same shift.

After a slashing penalty on Carolina’s Greg McKlegg, Tampa Bay took the lead for good when Point scored from the right circle as Nikita Kucherov picked up his 51st assist of the season. 

Kucherov picked up a point for his 13th consecutive home game as he is the NHL scoring leader (71), assist leader (52), and power play scoring leader (26).

“You have Stam [Stamkos], Kuch [Nikita Kucherov] and Heddy [Victor Hedman] making plays up top so obviously all of those guys can really shoot the puck and then we have Millsy down low and Yanny,” said Point. “I think it’s just guys just doing their job and like I said those three guys have a tendency to find open guys and give them a chance.”

Point’s empty-netter at 19:35 was his 28th marker of the season and iced the Lightning’s 34th win of the season.

The. Hurricanes’ Justin Williams gave Carolina the 1-0 lead on a second period goal, his 11th goal of the season, at the 4:34 mark on a tap in on the left side as Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevsky. Carolina had an odd man-rush as Doug Hamilton fired a shot off Vasilevsky’s blocker on the right side and then Williams put the blade on the ricochet to score the goal.

Williams, who was taken in the 2000 NHL Draft by the Philadelphia Flyers, best known as “Mr. Game Seven” with a personal 7-1 record with seven goals, 14 points in Game Sevens of three Stanley Cup Finals.

The Hurricanes had their win streak snapped at five games while the Lightning won for the ninth time in its last 10 games and increased its Atlantic Division lead to 14 points over Toronto.

_______________________________________________________

Ken Cross is a sports contributor for Florida National News. | info@floridanationalnews.com

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