The Carolina Hurricanes’ six-game homestand ended on an especially sour note, as they fell 4-3 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in overtime. It wasn’t necessarily the result that stings, but how it happened. Steven Stamkos, the National Hockey League’s leading scorer, netted his second of the game and 47th goal of the season on a 4-on-3 advantage in overtime to win the fourth straight game for the Bolts. It was how the Lightning got that power play that was questionable, to say the least.
Let’s talk about that penalty call. Brandon Sutter was rushing into the offensive zone, looking to make a play on a rebound. Stamkos was trailing him, reached his arm out, engaged him and pushed him into goaltender Mathieu Garon. Sutter made every attempt he could – he tried jumping over Garon, who was a good few feet out of his crease – to avoid the goaltender. Yet, he was called for roughing. “Couldn’t get out of the way. Just tried going to the net,” he said. “Obviously the goalie was out pretty far of his crease, and I got pushed in.” He continued later, “No question, I hit the goalie. I ran into him, and there was contact,” he said. “Like I said, I was clearly pushed into him. Terrible call. That’s it.”
Head coach Kirk Muller didn’t have much to say about the penalty call. “What am I going to say?” he said. “Next question.”
On the bright side, Eric Staal extended his point streak to 11 games, tying his own Carolina franchise (since relocation) record. He had two assists tonight, which also extends his assist streak to 10 games, tying Dave Keon’s franchise record set in 1979. His two assists also gave him his third straight multi-point game and sixth in his 11-game point streak. He’s been the best offensive player for the Hurricanes for weeks now, and he’s making those around him better. “Staalsy, again, played great,” Muller said. “I thought tonight was one of our best games as a team.”
Anthony Stewart saw a first-line promotion, as Muller rewarded his work ethic. That move paid off, as Stewart netted two goals, his first multi-point game of the season. He had a few chances to net the hat trick, and he seemed to be feeding off the energy that Staal and Jiri Tlusty brought, and vice versa. “Guys are down, but we can’t feel sorry for ourselves,” he said. “We just have to look forward to the next game.”
The next game will be on the road, the first of five away from Raleigh for the Hurricanes. This is when March will begin to pick up, as the team will play just two of their next 12 games at what will be PNC arena. “Our guys have been really resilient,” Muller said. “We’ve gone through a lot lately, both good and bad.”
– Carolina Hurricanes