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The Carolina Hurricanes haven’t had much to celebrate at their arena in recent years Tom Glavine Jersey , 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 Tyler Naquin Jersey , 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.
More NHL hockey: Ask Leighton Vander Esch about his improbable path from eight-man high school football to first-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys Troy Niklas Jersey Elite , and the rookie linebacker is quick with a retort of never being fazed by brighter lights or bigger cities.
Ask the former Boise State walk-on what he does to relax, and Vander Esch stares silently as his smile grows.
"Uh," he said Friday, the first day of rookie minicamp. "I don't even know."
Maybe that helps explain his rise to Mountain West Conference defensive player of the year and his showing at the combine and other workouts that stood out to new Dallas linebackers coach Ben Bloom. The Cowboys drafted Vander Esch 19th overall two weeks ago.
"It's kind of hard for me to relax, honestly," said Vander Esch, who signed an $11.8 million, four-year deal later Friday. "At this point, expectations are so high there's no time to relax. There's no days off. You've just got to keep trucking away."
Linebacker was one of the primary needs for Dallas going into the draft because of Sean Lee's history of injuries, Jaylon Smith's continuing recovery from a serious college knee injury and Anthony Hitchens' departure in free agency.
The Cowboys hadn't drafted a linebacker in the first round since Bobby Carpenter 12 years ago in almost the same spot (18th). Carpenter didn't get a second contract, leaving Dallas after four years in a career that ended after seven seasons. He never had more than 37 tackles.
Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is already talking rotation with Lee, Smith and Vander Esch for two spots. If Lee stays healthy Martinas Rankin Jersey Texans , that's more likely to mean shared time between Vander Esch and Smith, a second-round pick in 2016.
Smith didn't play as a rookie while recovering from the devastating injury during his final game at Notre Dame and was inconsistent last season, particularly early in the year when he was playing more than expected after Hitchens injured a knee in the preseason.
"We're going to play the best guys," Bloom said. "Everybody linebacker in the room has the ability to play at least two positions. We'll get the best guys on the field and they'll be asked to have multiple positions."
Lee's best fit is weakside linebacker, but he's missed at least one game because of injury in seven of his eight seasons. The only exception was his All-Pro year in 2016.
Vander Esch considers himself a middle linebacker and flatly denied a report from before the draft that a neck injury sustained at Boise had prompted some NFL teams to downgrade him on draft boards. Regardless, the Cowboys weren't one of those teams.
Owner and general manager Jerry Jones likes to compare Vander Esch to Rolando McClain, a first-round flameout in Oakland who had the best year of his career in 2014 in helping the Cowboys to just their second playoff win since their last Super Bowl title following the 1995 season.
Size would be a good place to start with that connection. McClain was 6-foot-4, same as Vander Esch, with an almost identical listed weight. The rookie is listed at 256.
"There's always pressure to perform," Vander Esch said. "Obviously this is the biggest level now so there's even more of it. You've just got to relax yourself and go out and do what you do."
After helping Salmon River High School in Riggins, Idaho, to a pair of state titles Jamal Adams Jets Jersey , Vander Esch walked on at Boise, about 150 miles south of his hometown. After a redshirt year, he progressed fast enough to bypass his senior season and enter the draft.
"You've got to be able to adapt quick no matter what," Vander Esch said. "You've got to able to take on anything and not worry about it, not stress yourself out, not get all flustered with it."
With his focus so much on football, Vander Esch didn't mind getting flustered over a question about what he does for fun.
NOTES: DT Maliek Collins is likely out until training camp after breaking a bone in his left foot Thursday during offseason workouts at the team's practice facility. He is expected to have his second surgery on that foot since January. The first procedure was for a stress reaction that bothered him last season, although he didn't miss any games. ... WR Terrance Williams, who broke a bone in his right foot in January, has been working on the side with trainers. Coach Jason Garrett said his recovery is on schedule, which likely means a return at training camp.
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