Published November 20, 2014
Vincent Lecavalier had a goal and an assist, and the quick-starting Tampa Bay Lightning beat Carolina 6-2 on Saturday night to eliminate the Hurricanes from playoff contention.
Lecavalier, Dominic Moore and Steven Stamkos scored during a 6-minute, 32-second flurry in the first period. The Lightning led 4-0 midway through the second and held on to send the New York Rangers into the Eastern Conference playoffs as the No. 8 seed.
Martin St. Louis had two assists before he and Simon Gagne scored empty-netters in the final 2½ minutes. Mike Smith made 42 saves for the Lightning, who matched a club record with their 46th victory and closed the regular season with wins in seven of eight.
Cory Stillman and Chad LaRose scored and Cam Ward stopped 29 shots but allowed four goals. The Hurricanes lost a win-and-you're-in season finale at home for the second time in four years.
The Rangers won earlier in the day to move to 93 points — two ahead of the Hurricanes, who held the tiebreaker over New York. That meant a victory of any kind against Tampa Bay would have given Carolina just its second playoff berth since winning the 2006 Stanley Cup.
That seemed like a formality for a Hurricanes team playing in front of a juiced-up RBC Center crowd and peaking at the right time, entering having won nine of 12 while earning points in six straight. But after scoring at will 24 hours earlier during a 6-1 rout of Atlanta, they fell way behind and were forced to play catch-up.
Stillman started the rally with a goal during a 5-on-3 power play midway through the second, and LaRose scored on a wrist shot to pull Carolina to 4-2 with 11:27 left in the third. But the Hurricanes came up empty on a power play in the final 4½ minutes before Gagne and St. Louis scored into empty nets 40 seconds apart to seal it.
Smith, who beat the Hurricanes in their building for the second time in two weeks, got all the offensive support he'd need during the Lightning's first-period scoring binge.
Moore sucked much of the air out of the arena 6:45 in, when he chipped the rebound of Steve Downie's shot over Ward's shoulder. Lecavalier made it 2-0 at 11:19 when he backhanded a breakaway between Ward's pads.
Then Stamkos almost completely hushed the building 2 minutes later, when he made it a three-goal game by tapping home a pretty feed from Teddy Purcell. That forced Carolina coach Paul Maurice to burn his timeout and stop the early onslaught with 6:43 left.
Clark pushed the Lightning lead to 4-0 when he scored from between the circles with about 9 minutes left in the second, roughly 2½ minutes before Stillman finally got Carolina on the board.
NOTES: The Carolina chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association announced its award winners, naming Ward the team's MVP and LW Jussi Jokinen as its "good guy" for his cooperation with the media. RW Erik Cole was the chapter's nominee for the Masterson Trophy, which honors sportsmanship, perseverance and dedication to the sport. ... St. Louis finished with 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in six games this season against Carolina. ... Percell added two assists for the Lightning.