Hurricanes, Lightning clash in Tampa

A pair of teams headed for an early end to the season will battle Sunday in Tampa, as the Lightning welcome the Carolina Hurricanes for a Southeast Division matchup at Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Both the Hurricanes and Lightning have been officially eliminated from postseason contention, but the teams still have four games left in the regular season.

Carolina, which will miss the postseason for a fourth straight spring, has lost three straight and 17 of its last 19 games. The Hurricanes hosted Philadelphia on Saturday and the Flyers, who also have been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, earned a 5-3 win behind a hat trick from Wayne Simmonds.

Eric Staal, Justin Faulk and Jeff Skinner all lit the lamp for the Hurricanes. while Justin Peters gave up all six goals on 39 shots.

"They outworked us tonight," said Carolina head coach Kirk Muller. "At the end of the day, you've got to come ready to play. You can't take a night off in the NHL."

Sunday's test is the second-to-last road game of the season for Carolina, which has a 9-10-3 record away from Raleigh this season, The Hurricanes will play their next two games on home ice against the New York Islanders and Rangers before closing their season Saturday in Pittsburgh.

The Lightning, who have lost five straight, will miss the playoffs for the second straight spring and for the fifth time in six seasons.

Tampa Bay overcame a 2-0 deficit against Montreal in its most recent outing, but still dropped a 3-2 decision in regulation.

Richard Panik scored late in the second period for the Lightning before Vincent Lecavalier tallied at 5:07 of the third to even the score at 2-2. However, Montreal's Brian Gionta scored the game-winning goal with 46.4 seconds left to lift the Canadiens to the home win.

Ben Bishop made 32 saves, but allowed all three Montreal goals in the setback. Carey Price stopped 32-of-34 shots for the Canadiens.

"We played well tonight, but Carey Price made some great saves which could have gone our way. I know he's been through tough times this week, but he's a good goalie and he proved it with the huge saves he made, especially in the first period," Lecavalier said.

The Lightning are just 2-5-3 in 10 games this month, but they will close the season with three of their four games at home. Tampa is 11-8-2 as the host this season compared to a dismal 6-15-2 record as the guest.

Tampa has claimed four straight and nine of the last 12 meetings against the Hurricanes and the Bolts recorded a 5-0 decision in Raleigh on April 4. Carolina has taken three of the last five encounters in Tampa.