RALEIGH, N.C. - Martin Necas scored his second goal of the game to break a tie with 3:53 remaining, and the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 on Saturday night in a matchup between the top two teams in the Central Division.
Necas, who also had two assists, put the Hurricanes ahead on a power play, with Dougie Hamilton getting an assist to extend his franchise-record point streak for a defenseman to 14 games. That’s the longest active streak in the NHL for any player.
Goals by Cedric Paquette and Sebastian Aho in a 62-second span early in the second knotted the score. Necas put Carolina ahead with his first goal later in the period.
Necas has 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 13 games this month. The season-high four-point outing matched his career best.
"He has never lacked for confidence," Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. "He has, from Day One, always tried to make plays."
With injuries to Carolina forwards Vincent Trocheck and Teuvo Teravainen, the contributions from Necas have been critical. He has the most points on the team this month.
"I’m just trying to step in," Necas said. "I got on the first (power-play unit). That gives you a little more confidence, a little bit more time on the ice."
Blake Coleman and Pat Maroon scored in the first period and Mathieu Joseph tied the game 22 seconds into the third for Tampa Bay.
Hurricanes goalie James Reimer made 19 saves. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 36 shots for the first-place Lightning.
The defending Stanley Cup champions, who have a one-point lead on the Hurricanes, have lost consecutive games for the first time since Feb. 15 and 20. Carolina also delivered the second defeat in that set.
"We didn’t win tonight because we got outworked," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.
Coleman converted for the first goal after Reimer failed to cover the puck.
Since joining the Hurricanes in a mid-February trade, Paquette has scored two of his three goals against Tampa Bay. He played on last year’s title team for the Lightning.
The Hurricanes held a 28-11 edge in shots across the final two periods. Vasilevskiy was largely up to the task for the Lightning.
"That could have been a lot worse if he didn’t play that well," Tampa Bay center Ross Colton said.
COME AND SEE
It was Carolina’s first home game since North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced indoor sports venues could hold up to 50% capacity. That would have meant more than 9,000 spectators at PNC Arena.
However, the team limited the number of additional tickets made available in order to adhere to other protocols. Attendance was listed at 4,433.
"Right away, when we first came out, I was like, ‘Wow, we got a hockey game here,’" Brind’Amour said. "It was a lot of energy. … It says a lot about the people coming in here. They’re definitely not sitting on their hands. It was a fun atmosphere. They got entertained, which was great."
The team announced that every ticket made available was sold.
Once fans were permitted earlier this month, attendance had been limited to no more than 15% for the past six home games.
The Hurricanes are 11-1-3 at home.
UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN
It was the sixth meeting of the season between the teams, and the Lightning’s final visit to Raleigh.
"The farther the season goes, every game is huge," Aho said. "That’s the defending champs, so obviously it was quite a challenge for us."
The clubs originally were supposed to play a rematch Sunday, but that game was moved to Feb. 20 in a schedule shuffle involving several teams in the division.
The last two Carolina-Tampa Bay matchups of the season are April 19 and 20 in Tampa, Florida.
Lightning: Begin a four-game homestand Tuesday night against Columbus.
Hurricanes: Play on Tuesday and Thursday at Chicago.