Lightning still three points ahead of 'Canes


RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- With 11 goals in seven games, it should be
hard to convince the slumping Carolina Hurricanes anything positive
is around the corner offensively.

But coach Paul Maurice is keeping the faith.

"I'm assuming that these things, these breaks that we're not
getting, that we're saving them up,'' he said after a 1-1 tie with
the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night. "I was pretty sure at
this time last year that it was never going to happen and then I
realized we were saving them up when we got into the playoffs.

"Now I'm a little bit more confident the karma is coming back
at some point.''

But when?

Carolina is 1-5-1 in its last seven games and has fallen out of
first place in the Southeast Division.

"When you're struggling like we are to score at times you start
to press and try to make the perfect shot,'' Carolina captain Ron
Francis said. "I try to tell some of the guys on the bench to just
close your eyes and shoot as hard as you can to the middle of the

"When you're not scoring you're not shooting it accurate and
when you start picking it you tend to miss the net.''

Brad Richards scored in the first period, and Nikolai Khabibulin
allowed just one goal against the Hurricanes for a third straight
game as each team garnered a point.

The tie kept the Lightning three points ahead of second-place
Carolina in the Southeast. Tampa Bay also has 5-1 and 2-1 wins in
the first two months of the season over the Hurricanes, who got
their goal from Jan Hlavac.

"The main thing we're looking at right now is to try to stay in
front of this team because we know they're going to be there at the
end,'' Richards said of the defending Eastern Conference champions.
"We know they're going to come on.''

Tampa Bay had the best chance to score in the extra five-minute
period with a scramble in front of Arturs Irbe with 2:19 left, but
the goalie was able to cover up.

Carolina dominated play for most of the third period, but got
only Francis' wraparound shot from in close with 9.2 seconds left
in regulation on Khabibulin. The Carolina franchise had never gone
a period at home without a shot in its 24th NHL season.

"The way Carolina was playing in the second period we
definitely needed to shift the momentum,'' Tampa Bay coach John
Tortorella said.

Sami Kapanen had the best chance in the third. He broke free
down the slot, but his backhander was high and wide of the net with
10:17 left.

Maurice's major line shakeup did little for his club's offense
for the most of the opening two periods.

The Hurricanes scored with 1:26 left in the second on the power
play as Hlavac beat Khabibulin with a high shot on the stick side.

Carolina was 0-for-5 with the man advantage prior to Hlavac's
seventh goal of the season.

Richards extended his point streak to eight straight games when
he scored on Tampa Bay's first shot on Irbe 4:28 in.

"We were asleep on the first few shifts and then we got a
turnover and capitalized,'' Richards said. "It was good to get the
team into the game. Without some bad penalties we might have won
this game.''

Carolina got seven shots on Khabibulin during a four-minute
power play after Tim Taylor drew blood on a high stick against
Niclas Wallin, but the Lightning goalie was solid, stopping 12
shots in the first period.

Game notes
Kevin Weekes backed up Irbe after missing the last eight
games with a concussion. ... Carolina has scored first in just 13
of 33 games. ... Richards has three goals and eight assists during
his eight-game point streak. ... Francis' assist on Carolina's
first goal moved him within two of 1,200 for his career. ...
Seventeen of Rod Brind'Amour's team-leading 27 points have come on
the power play for the Hurricanes. The veteran center had just 14
points on the power play a season ago.