RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ It only took a few minutes to realize the Carolina Hurricanes were missing traded captain Ron Francis.
In their first game since their longtime leader was dealt away, the Hurricanes allowed two goals to the Tampa Bay Lightning within three minutes and went on to lose 4-2 against the NHL's top team.
``The bad start probably cost us the game. We didn't come out firing,'' said fourth-line forward Jesse Boulerice, who scored the Hurricanes' first goal.
Not only didn't Carolina have Francis leading them, the Hurricanes didn't have a captain at all. With the 41-year-old center now playing with the Toronto Maple Leafs, following Tuesday's trade, general manager Jim Rutherford said a new captain probably won't be chosen before next season.
``We've got to be professional about this. We've got jobs to do,'' Carolina alternate captain Glen Wesley said. ``But in the back of your mind, you know he's missing.''
Dave Andreychuk and Ruslan Fedotenko scored less than a minute apart as Arturs Irbe and the rest of the Hurricanes started out hesitant and uncoordinated.
``Every time we play them it's a pretty close game, so I think we were a little surprised when we went up 2-0,'' Andreychuk said.
Andreychuk, parked near the right post, used the shaft of his stick to redirect a slap shot by Cory Stillman for a power-play goal just 2:15 in. Less than a minute later, the Lightning took advantage of a sloppy clearing attempt. Martin St. Louis grabbed the puck and got it to Fedotenko, who fired a shot past Irbe at 3:09.
Carolina coach Peter Laviolette immediately brought his team to the bench for a timeout and a subdued lecture.
``We were playing the top team in our conference, a division rival,'' a frustrated Laviolette said. ``It's just too bad we had to even take a timeout there. We actually could have used it there at the end.''
Laviolette's words had a visible impact, as the Hurricanes held Tampa Bay without a shot for the next 10 minutes and cut the deficit in half thanks to aggressive play by their third and fourth lines.
Boulerice, alone high in the Tampa Bay zone, grabbed a pass out of the corner from Michael Zigomanis _ recalled Tuesday from Lowell of the AHL _ and dropped between the circles to fire a shot past John Grahame at 9:40.
Radim Vrbata made it 2-2 6:58 into the second period. Kevyn Adams brought the puck into the zone with Vrbata and Jaroslav Svoboda on a three-on-two break.
Adams passed across the ice from Grahame's right side to Vrbata, who flipped the puck in as Grahame tried too late to cover the open side of the net.
The Hurricanes outshot Tampa Bay 33-16 and had a number of quality scoring chances throughout. But they failed to score on four power plays and were repeatedly frustrated by Grahame, who made 31 saves to Irbe's 12.
``I can't stand the results, they make me nauseous,'' Laviolette said. ``But I'm going to guess we made three mistakes all night, and all three ended up in our net.''
Dan Boyle restored the Lightning's lead with 6:43 left. With Tim Taylor holding the puck behind the Hurricanes net, Boyle slipped untouched behind a group of players that blocked Irbe's view. He grabbed Taylor's pass and snapped in a shot to make it 3-2.
Taylor added an empty-net goal with 47 seconds left.
``We didn't play well, plain and simple,'' Lightning coach John Tortorella said. ``But the good news is our third line kicks in an important goal, our goaltending was good, we scored a power play goal, our penalty killing was good.''