Yanni Gourde and the Tampa Bay Lightning went back to their old game Monday night to secure a big Central Division win over the Carolina Hurricanes. They will look to do it again 24 hours later.
The rivals will finish off a back-to-back series and play each other for the final time in the regular season Tuesday night in Tampa.
The momentum swung to the home side Monday thanks to Gourde.
Following a Carolina rally from a two-goal deficit, Gourde cashed in on his own rebound 2:50 into overtime for a 3-2 win that tightened the race atop the division.
With Florida winning 4-2 over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday, the Hurricanes and Panthers each have accumulated 63 points while Tampa Bay has posted 62. The Panthers have 10 games remaining, the Lightning have 11 games left and the Hurricanes have 12 games to go.
The Lightning improved to 22-0-0 when leading after two periods and 6-1-0 in the first game of back-to-backs.
After netting his 16th goal, Gourde told the Bally Sports Sun broadcast that his line with Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman, plus the rest of the squad, went back in time.
“Honestly, I think we went back to our roots,” Gourde said. “We forechecked a lot, we made simple plays. Our line was pretty effective just forechecking and being in their face and reloading. Every line was really good tonight. All four lines were pulling in the right direction.”
Carolina got a strong performance from goalie Petr Mrazek (33 saves), but the addition of newcomer Jani Hakanpaa appears to have solidified the defense.
In his only move at last week’s trade deadline, Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell set out to find the missing piece of the team puzzle.
To shore up the rear guard, Waddell traded defenseman Haydn Fleury to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for the right-handed-shooting Hakanpaa and a 2022 sixth-round draft pick.
It’s that shot from the right side by the 6-foot-5, 220-pound native of Kirkkonummi, Finland, that intrigued the team enough to trade away a former first-round pick.
The team had only two righties among its defensive corps, Dougie Hamilton and Brett Pesce.
Hakanpaa made his presence felt in Carolina’s 3-1 win Saturday night over the Nashville Predators, his second game skating with the Hurricanes. He fired in his first career game-winning goal (the second tally of his career overall) and nearly notched another goal.
“That’s the best way to feel part of a group, for sure, when you can contribute like that,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said of Hakanpaa’s tiebreaking goal at 8:55 of the third period. “It came at a great time for us, obviously.”
The coach added, “We’ve had a lot of offense from our defense, they just maybe haven’t got on the scoresheet or scored as much in the (recent) past. They’re a big part of our offense and drive our team.”
As of Monday, Brind’Amour was not sure if winger Teuvo Teravainen — out since early March with a concussion — would play on the Hurricanes’ six-game road trip that began with the opener against the Lightning.
Carolina is 5-1-2 in its past eight games. In that same span, Tampa Bay is 4-4-0.
–Field Level Media