Hurricanes shock Lightning

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Matt Cullen scored the only goal in a shootout and the Carolina Hurricanes tied Ottawa atop the Eastern Conference with a 5-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday night.

Martin St. Louis, who has yet to put the puck in the net in the NHL’s new tiebreaker, hit the post with his attempt in the third and final round to fall to 0-for-3. The Lightning missed a chance to extend their lead even further over Atlanta for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East, but did stretch it to three points.

Tampa Bay has two games left, while the Thrashers have three.

Justin Williams, Cory Stillman, Rod Brind’Amour and Doug Weight scored for the Hurricanes, who have 111 points. If they win their final two games, they will clinch the conference’s No. 1 seed in the postseason over the Senators.

St. Louis, Vaclav Propsal, Ruslan Fedotenko and Brad Richards scored in regulation for the Lightning. Each team twice bounced back from one-goal deficits, with Tampa Bay moving in front 4-3 on Richards’ 22nd of the season in the second period. It very well might be his easiest.

As he harmlessly carried the puck through the neutral zone, he sent a lazy slap shot toward the net, with no screen between him and Carolina goalie Martin Gerber. Yet Gerber missed when he tried to catch it and could only look at his glove while the Lightning celebrated their first lead. The Hurricanes got a chance to tie it about 4 minutes later on the power play, when Tampa Bay goalie Sean Burke was called for delay of game after his clearing attempt landed in the stands. Prospal served the penalty, and Carolina looked simply awful for much of the 2 minutes.

With less than 20 seconds left, defenseman Bret Hedican sent the puck toward the net, where it bounced off teammate Eric Staal. Weight pounced on it and stuffed it past Burke to make it 4-4. The Lightning took their first lead early in the period even though they were down a man. With Cory Sarich in the penalty box for hooking, Vincent Lecavalier and St. Louis broke free and skated in unimpeded on Gerber.

Lecavalier smartly took the puck far to his left to draw Gerber, then fed it back to the trailing St. Louis for the go-ahead goal.

This time, Carolina needed only 20 seconds to tie it. Stillman chased down the rebound from his own shot before passing to Brind’Amour across the ice, and a one-timer easily got through Burke.

Notes: Fedotenko’s goal was only his second in the past 10 games. … The 10th sellout of the season at the RBC Center enjoyed “Fan Appreciation Night,” with highlights from Carolina’s surprising season replayed on the scoreboard during nearly every stoppage. … North Carolina native Heather Cox, who was voted off “American Idol” in early March, sang the national anthem.

AP-ES-04-14-06 2151EDT

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