Series (Game 6 of 6)

Tampa Bay leads 4-2

Game 1: Monday, December 20th
Game 2: Saturday, January 15th
Game 3: Saturday, February 12th
Game 4: Friday, March 25th
Game 5: Saturday, March 26th
Game 6: Saturday, April 9th

Lightning 6

(46-25-11, 103 pts)

Hurricanes 2

(40-31-11, 91 pts)

7:00 PM ET, April 9, 2011

PNC Arena, Raleigh, North Carolina

1 2 3 T
TB 3 1 26
CAR 0 1 12

M. Smith (Lightning - G): Saves: 42, Save Pct.: .955

V. Lecavalier (Lightning - C): Goals: 1, Assists: 1

M. St. Louis (Lightning - RW): Goals: 1, Assists: 2

Lightning-Hurricanes Preview


The Carolina Hurricanes moved one step closer to the final Eastern Conference playoff spot thanks to another impressive performance by Cam Ward.

They may look to their goalie again to get them across the finish line.

The Hurricanes need a victory Saturday night over the Tampa Bay Lightning to punch their ticket to the playoffs, while a loss would leave them out for the second consecutive season.

With a 6-1 rout of Atlanta on Friday, the surging Hurricanes (40-30-11) won for the eighth time in 10 games and temporarily moved into an eighth-place tie with the New York Rangers.

The Rangers, however, surged back ahead by two points after beating New Jersey 5-2 in their regular-season finale Saturday.

While a Carolina win would leave both teams with 93 points, the Hurricanes have the edge in the relevant tiebreakers.

"Certainly it is not over. (Saturday) will be a big day for us," said Ward, who came within 39 seconds of his second straight shutout Friday and improved to 8-1-1 with a 1.97 goals-against average in his last 10 starts.

Ward, though, has been shaky in splitting four starts against the Lightning, allowing a total of 14 goals. Carolina also fell 5-1 in Tampa on Dec. 20 as Justin Peters made 29 saves.

Eric Staal failed to record a point Friday for Carolina, ending a four-game point streak in which he had two goals and five assists. The Hurricanes' captain has goals in four straight games against Tampa Bay.

The Lightning (45-25-11), already assured of fifth place in the East, defeated Florida 4-2 on Friday for their sixth win in seven games. That enabled Tampa Bay to surpass 100 points for the first time since winning its only Stanley Cup in 2004.

"It's an achievement," said first-year coach Guy Boucher, whose team has outscored opponents 22-12 in its last seven games. "You've been battling with the big boys. We've done pretty good. I want to do great."

Dwayne Roloson made 23 saves and has gone 4-1-0 with a 2.02 GAA in his last five starts. Acquired from the New York Islanders on New Year's Day, the 41-year-old Roloson is 1-4-0 with a 3.03 GAA in six career games in Raleigh.

Vincent Lecavalier scored twice and Ryan Malone added a goal and an assist for the third straight contest.

"It's all about trying to get momentum for the playoffs," said Lecavalier, who has four goals in his last three games. "The playoffs are, obviously, the most important thing. We're happy, but we're not satisfied."

Martin St. Louis, third in the league with 96 points, extended his points streak to eight games with an assist Friday. St. Louis has two goals and seven assists in five games against Carolina this season.

Another player the Hurricanes will want to keep an eye on is Simon Gagne. A two-time 40-goal scorer with Philadelphia, Gagne has only 16 goals in his first season with Tampa Bay, but six have come against Carolina.

He scored twice in the Lightning's 4-3 loss to the Hurricanes on March 25 in the opener of a home-and-home set. The next night, Gagne had a pair of unassisted goals as Tampa Bay earned a split with a 4-2 win.