In the first round, we had the All-Florida series between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers. Now, in the second round we apparently have the All Storm series between the Lightning and the Carolina Hurricanes. Game 1 was a typically hard-fought playoff game that ended in a Lightning victory.
In the very first playoff game between these two franchises, The Carolina Hurricanes played host to the Tampa Bay Lightning. It was everything NHL fans have come to expect in a playoff series. The crowd in the PNC arena in Raleigh was as loud as any we’ve heard this season. Every Lightning player knew this was an intangible they had to overcome. If Tampa was to come out of this game with a win, they would have to silence this throng.
To make it more difficult, Lightning defenseman David Savard was out for this game with an upper body injury. For Carolina, Nino Neiderreiter was also going to miss this game.
Opening Period in the Tempest
Once the puck was dropped in Game 1, it was evident that both teams came ready to play. There was a high level of energy and compete on the first few shifts from both sides. Early on as Carolina worked hard for offensive zone time, Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy looked laser focused. A lot of good saves and a couple of great saves from the Tampa goalie lifted the Lightning players.
With 10:47 remaining in the first period, the Lightning were called for too many men on the ice infraction. The penalty killers from Tampa were ready. Knowing Vasilevskiy came to play, the special teamers held Carolina to two shots. Even short handed, the Lightning were able to get off a shot at Hurricane goalie Alex Nedeljkovic.
Killing that penalty helped the Lightning grab the game’s momentum. Getting off the next four shots on Nedeljkovic leveled the ice a bit. As the period progressed, it was becoming a game of shifts. Which shift was going to grab the game’s first goal? Both goalies were looking good though Vasilevskiy was tested with more good scoring chances than Nedeljkovic in the opposite net.
At the end of one period, Carolina had the shot lead 15 to 12. The Lightning handily won the face off wars winning 63% of the puck drops. Tampa also out hit Carolina 18 to 13. Safe to say that the Lightning survived the early storm in this opening game of the All Storm Series.
After weathering the first period, the second period saw both teams start to settle down and settle into this series. At the 6:56 mark of the period, the Lightning had their first power play opportunity. Brock McGinn was whistled for high sticking on Mikhail Sergachev.
In a scoreless game, giving the Lightning a power play opportunity could prove to be an error. As if scripted, Victor Hedman snapped off a shot pass that landed right on the tape of Brayden Point’s stick. Just like that, Point tapped the puck through the five hole of Nedeljkovic for the game’s first goal. This was Point’s fifth goal of these playoffs in the team’s seventh game.
A short time later, Tampa’s 4th line was cycling the puck hard in the Hurricanes zone and a hustling Tyler Johnson drew another penalty. Most hockey fans know that if the referees miss an initial infraction, they will always catch the retaliation. With 45 seconds left on this power play, Nikita Kucherov retaliated and the refs caught the penalty. This stopped the Lightning’s man advantage. Ultimately, this gave Carolina another power play and again the penalty killers played big holding off the Hurricanes gusts.
One possible victim of the Hurricanes forecheck was Erik Cernak. He was sandwiched between two Carolina players and skated shakily to the locker room. He did not come back for the remainder of the game. It was clear the Lightning’s penalty killers had to be ready. In the last minute of the second, Blake Coleman was called for a trip on Jordan Martinook. There were only 12 seconds remaining in the middle frame. As a result of this penalty, the Lightning would start the third period a man down.
Good Things Come in Threes
Since the Lightning PK lines were having a great game, there was confidence in killing off the Coleman penalty. Missing Cernak though could change things. The deeper you go in the playoffs, the harder the games become. Similarly, the more penalties you have to kill, the more you give them a chance back in the game. Sure enough, Carolina’s Jake Bean scored his first career playoff goal through a double screened Vasilevskiy. Boom, just like that, the puck went past him.
The crowd was now surging and the Lightning had to batten down the hatches to stay in this game. Winning a playoff game on the road is tough enough, now the Hurricanes were coming in like cyclones to get the lead goal. Tampa’s team defense held firm. After the tying goal, the game became a frenzy. Like a great tennis match, the puck kept going back and forth. There’s Vasilevskiy making a stop, then Nedeljkovic keeping the game tied.
With 11:56 left in regulation, Anthony Cirelli was called for high sticking on Vinnie Trocheck. . Again, the PK units had to come up big. They were huge. Carolina had some great looks and good puck movement but didn’t light the lamp. It was a power play with a lot of offensive zone time but no goal to show for those two minutes. The game continued to go back and forth. Who was going to come up with the game winner?
The All Storm Series Living Up to the Hype
Then, with 7:21 left in regulation, Barclay Goodrow at a severe short side angle slipped one past Nedeljkovic. Lightning now have a 2 – 1 lead. There’s no doubt that’s the kind of goal any goalie would want back. He didn’t completely side up to the post and it was a goal that he misplayed badly. Now the Lightning had to stop the storm that they knew was coming. Seven minutes, six minutes, up and down the ice. You knew Carolina was going to shower Vasilevskiy with shots hoping for a seeing eye puck or uncontrolled rebound. Tampa fans were just hoping it wouldn’t be a downpour and this slim margin would hold up. Five minutes, now four minutes left.
So, here we are. Minutes dwindling in regulation, down to three then two. Could the Hurricanes get the tying goal to move this game to overtime? In their first series against Nashville, the last four games all went to extra time. The Hurricanes won the last two and with it, the series. OT has been their jam. Until now.
Every push made by the Hurricanes, was met with a fierce team defense by the Lightning players. Blocking shots, getting the puck out of their zone, strong forechecking were all part of the recipe. Even after Carolina pulled Nedeljkovic with a minute remaining, the Lightning and Vasilevskiy held down the fort. The Lightning won the game 2 -1. Any time you can win a playoff game on the road, it’s a good day. Despite losing the shot numbers as well as the face offs, the Lightning stole Game 1 in Carolina, Taking back home ice as they did in round one against the Florida Panthers.
What’s Next for the All Storm Series?
Game two is Tuesday at 7:30 pm at the PNC Bank in Raleigh, North Carolina. You know, the Hurricanes don’t want to head to Tampa down two games to none. For the Lightning, now that they took Game 1 on the road, it was time to start nailing down the coffin of this series. Who knows what’s going to happen? Like an impending storm, get your supplies and be ready for anything.
Three Stars of the Game
1 – Andrei Vasilevskiy. Stopped 37 of 38 shots.
2 – Barclay Goodrow. Game winning goal and played big on the penalty kill.
2 – Alex Nedeljkovic. Stopped 28 of 30 shots.
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