TAMPA, Fla. - Yanni Gourde scored 2:50 into overtime to give the Tampa Bay Lightning a 3-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday night in a critical matchup between Central Division contenders.
Alex Killorn and Brayden Point also scored for the Lightning. Andrei Vasilevskiy finished with 25 saves.
Andrei Svechnikov and Brady Skjei scored for Carolina, which has only one regulation loss in the past eight games. Petr Mrazek stopped 33 shots.
Carolina and Florida are tied for the Central Division lead with 63 points, though the Hurricanes have two games in hand. The defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning are one point behind the co-leaders.
Gourde found a loose puck alone in the right circle and after his initial shot was stopped by Mrazek, Gourde was able to put in the rebound before the Carolina goaltender could reach back. It was Gourde's 16th goal of the season.
Killorn opened the scoring after taking a pass from Tyler Johnson off the boards to skate in on a breakaway. Killorn pulled the puck to his backhand and lifted the shot over Mrazek at 14:42.
Point got his 300th career point on his 19th goal of the season after deflecting Ondre Palat’s shot pass on the power play at 2:08 of the second period.
Svechnikov cut the lead to 2-1 just 10 seconds into a power play with a wrist shot from the left point.
Skjei pulled the Hurricanes even 1:08 into the third as he cut down from the left point to intercept a pass from Alex Barre-Boulet and beat Vasilevskiy with a wrist shot from the slot.
Johnson, who has played his entire NHL career with the Lightning, has endured his share of struggles this season, including Saturday in a loss to Florida when he was responsible for a late-period turnover and failed coverage. Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper removed Johnson from the power-play rotation after holding a conversation with the veteran center earlier in the day.
"I’ve coached him a long time and I trust him as a player,’’ Cooper said. "He’s had many, many, many more ups than downs. When you go through this you just have to stand with your player and try to have him work his way out of that. Part of that is to work on the 5-on-5 game and then take steps from there. He’s a consummate pro and I’m sure he’s going to work his way out of this.’’
TRIO IN NET
Carolina continues to carry three goaltenders on the active roster, with Mrazek, James Reimer and Alex Nedeljkovic. Mrazek, who missed two months with a fractured thumb, and Nedeljkovic both have sub-2.00 goals-against averages while Reimer leads the team with 14 wins.
With the playoffs less than a month away, Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour wants to use more of a set rotation.
"Do we have a plan? Yeah, but we are basically going day-to-day on how we want to focus it,’’ Brind’Amour said. "And it’s tough on those guys because no matter what, you are not going to make everybody happy. So we have to do what is best for the group and we probably have to lean toward two guys more just to keep them sharp. You don’t want to have guys getting stale.’’
The teams play again on Tuesday.
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