The Carolina Hurricanes came away from Tuesday's home opener believing they played harder, smarter, tougher and better than they did in the season opener.
All that might be true, but it wasn't enough to keep them from losing again.
The Tampa Bay Lightning, which is becoming accustomed to spoiling big moments for the Canes at PNC Arena, came away with a 4-1 victory that wasn't overly decisive but solid enough.
Tom Pyatt and Cory Conacher scored first-period goals and Keith Aulie and Ryan Malone scored during the third for Tampa Bay. With Mathieu Garon stopping 35 shots in his first start of the season, the Lightning pushed its record to 2-1 and left the Canes again looking for answers.
"You never want to lose two straight, but we've got a lot of hockey left," Canes captain Eric Staal said. "We'll regroup, refocus and get better."
Jeff Skinner scored his first goal of the season, elevating a nifty backhander on the power play, and the Canes had other good scoring chances. Jordan Staal, making his first home appearance with the Hurricanes, was a bull in front of the Tampa Bay net and Alexander Semin had six shots in his PNC Arena debut for Carolina.
But with 6 minutes, 40?seconds left in regulation, there was Canes captain Eric Staal dropping the gloves and ready to fight Tampa Bay's Adam Hall. Staal was standing up for his team, showing leadership but also frustration from the 0-2 start to a season so many believe can be promising.
After the 5-1 loss Saturday to the Florida Panthers in the opener, followed by Tuesday's loss, and with a game Thursday against the Buffalo Sabres up next, the Canes definitely are dealing with some anxiety.
"There's got to be a little desperation out of us," Skinner said.
Coach Kirk Muller first said his team played better, then quickly added, "But we're 0-2 in a shortened season."
"I thought there were a lot of good things in certain areas but the bottom line is we have to be a tougher team to play against and stronger around the net and tougher to defend," Muller said.
The Lightning's two first-period goals came on plays in front of goalie Cam Ward. Pyatt swatted the puck past Ward after a centering pass from Vincent Lecavalier and Conacher hammered in a rebound of a Lecavalier shot.
Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/01/23/2625408/live-scoreboard-canes-host-lightning.html#storylink=cpy
Lightning spoil Canes' home opener, win 4-1
Raleigh News & Observer | Jan 23