RALEIGH, N.C. — The Carolina Hurricanes haven’t had much to celebrate at their arena in recent years, at least when it comes to the playoffs. At the end of another listless season, they kept the Tampa Bay Lightning from partying there.
Elias Lindholm scored 49 seconds into overtime, and the Hurricanes prevented Tampa Bay from clinching the top spot in the Eastern Conference by beating the Lightning 3-2 on Saturday night.
Justin Williams had a goal and an assist, Jordan Staal scored a deflected goal and Phil Di Giuseppe had two assists for the Hurricanes. They had lost three straight and four of five down the stretch during their ninth straight season without making the playoffs — tied for the third-longest such drought in NHL history.
“Listen, it’s tough for me to put on a smile for a couple seconds, and then you realize where you are,” Williams said. “And then instantly turns into a frown.”
Ondrej Palat scored the tying goal with 8:49 left and Ryan Callahan also scored for Tampa Bay. But with star Steven Stamkos out for a third straight game with an upper-body injury, the Lightning earned one point for going to OT but relinquished control of the Atlantic Division race to Boston.
The Bruins, who beat Ottawa 5-2 on Saturday night, will win the division and claim the top spot in the East if they beat Florida on Sunday night.
“You never want to leave things into the hands of another team, but there’s still a chance for us to be the first seed,” Tampa Bay center Alex Killorn said. “We’ll wait and see.”
The winning goal came after Teuvo Teravainen charged between the circles and looked left to Lindholm, who one-timed it past Louis Domingue.
That came after J.T. Miller set up Tampa Bay’s tying goal when he found Palat with a slick pass and the defenseman one-timed it by Ward to make it 2-2.
Cam Ward made 32 saves against the NHL’s highest-scoring offense. The Lightning average a league-best 3.56 goals and in winning the first two games of the season series had scored five goals in each.
“Obviously, they’re top in the East for a reason, and pretty much can be a threat every time they’re out there,” Ward said. “We came in tonight trying to finish the right way, and I thought the effort was there all night. They’re going to get their looks and get their chances but … if I made the save, the guys are right there to help me out.”
Domingue stopped 39 shots for Tampa Bay, which had won two straight and three of four.
“I like the way that we’ve played the past couple of games,” Killorn said. “Tonight may not have been as great as the other two, but it’s about putting a full game together and I think guys are excited for playoffs. We’ve been in the playoffs, clinched, for a while now. We’re kind of tired of waiting and we want to get started.”
NOTES: Staal won two awards following a vote of the local chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, earning the Steve Chiasson Award for determination and dedication to the sport and the Josef Vasicek Award for cooperation with the media. … The group also selected RW Sebastian Aho as team MVP.
Lightning: Will watch the Florida-Boston game while awaiting the start of their first-round series.
Hurricanes: Preseason camp starts in September.
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