The Carolina Hurricanes certainly looked rusty in their season debut over the weekend. They hope for an improved effort on Tuesday evening in a home matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
After raising expectations this offseason by acquiring Jordan Staal from Pittsburgh in a trade and signing winger Alexander Semin, the Hurricanes opened the season on Saturday in Florida, where they were routed 5-1 by the Panthers.
Patrick Dwyer had the lone goal, while Staal and Semin combined to post three shots. Staal was credited with eight hits, while Semin took a pair of two- minute minors.
Carolina trailed 4-0 at the end of the first period and went 0-for-6 on the power play.
"That's a tough one, after the first, to come back to," said 'Canes coach Kirk Muller. "We've got to look at the positives to build on. When we played our game and stuck to the system and played it correctly, we put the momentum in our favor. There's still things we can work on to get better."
Cam Ward will certainly hope to improve after failing to make it past the first period. He faced 12 shots and yielded four goals, three of them while shorthanded.
Dan Ellis stopped 12-of-13 shots faced in two periods of relief.
"You've got to be ready for anything. There's been a lot of time off and there's going to be some rust," Ellis admitted. "It's going to take a little time to fine-tune things."
Ward is expected to start this game.
Carolina will look to rebound during a stretch of playing four of five at home. That includes Thursday against Buffalo to begin a home-and-home series.
The Lightning will open a five-game homestand on Friday after wrapping up the second of back-to-back road games on Tuesday. Tampa Bay won its home opener on Saturday, but dropped a 4-3 decision to the New York Islanders on Monday.
The Bolts yielded three goals in the second and another early in the third before netting three straight tallies of their own to close the gap. Martin St. Louis, Benoit Pouliot and Steven Stamkos all scored in the frame, but Tampa could not complete the rally.
"We know we can come back," said Stamkos. "There's a lot of cases of almost and what-ifs. We need to look at the positives in the third (period) and find a way to play that consistently throughout the game."
St. Louis and Stamkos also had assists and Anders Lindback had 40 saves in the game, which was the 1,000th in the career of Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier. He became the 29th active player to reach that milestone and just the fifth No. 1 overall pick with the team that originally drafted them.
Stamkos' goal was his first of the season after he led the NHL with 60 in 2011-12. He had five goals and three assists versus the Hurricanes last season, including a hat trick in a home victory on Dec. 31, 2011.
The clubs split six meetings last season and Tampa Bay has won five of its last seven at Carolina.