RALEIGH – The Carolina Hurricanes got two regulars back in their lineup, but the result was the same.
The Tampa Bay Lightning never trailed in a 3-2 win, handing the Hurricanes their third-straight loss at the RBC Center Monday.
Nevermind that forward Chad LaRose, who joined forward Sergei Samsonov in returning to the lineup, tied the game in the third period after missing 17 games.
Or that LaRose won the game's third star.
Or that he and the Hurricanes had their chances to score.
It still wasn't enough.
All night, the Lightning had an answer.
Just over five minutes after LaRose's third period goal, Tampa Bay forward Martin St. Louis, earning the game's first star, broke away and passed over to forward Steve Downie, who caught Carolina goalie Cam Ward out of position for the game winner.
Ward, one win shy of tying the franchise wins record, kept the Hurricanes in the game after giving up a goal to Ryan Malone, who squeaked a backhander in between Ward's pads at 11:07 in the first period.
The Hurricanes power play, entering the game ranked 25th in the league, continued to struggle, despite a pair of power play goals from Jussi Jokinen in Saturday's 5-3 loss to Atlanta. On Monday, it was downright dysfunctional, going 0-for-4 for the night.
The Hurricanes, who played the Lightning about even in the first period, went into an offensive lull in the second period.
The Hurrricanes didn't wake out of it until late in the period, breaking into a flurry that saw forward Eric Staal fire wide on a good look off to the side of the net.
Moments later, the Hurricanes finally got past Tampa Bay goalie Antero Niittymaki. Staal attempted a wrap-around, and center Matt Cullen was there to put away the second rebound after forward Ray Whitney missed at 16:28.
But less than two minutes later, Carolina defenseman Niclas Wallin was called for interference, and Tampa Bay scored on the man advantage, with center Vincent LeCavalier collecting up a rebound and put it past Ward after a hard shot from Tampa Bay defenseman Andrej Meszaros for a 2-1 lead at 18:55 in the second.
The Hurricanes were out-shot 32 to 22, but were there to the end.
Ward is one win behind Arturs Irbe, who holds the franchise wins record at 130.