Let’s take a look back to this year’s opening round for the Tampa Bay Lightning. They took a commanding 2-0 series lead on the road. Round two against the Carolina Hurricanes? They did likewise. So, it wasn’t surprising to Bolts fans when the Canes pushed back in game three.
In fact, the Hurricanes did exactly what the Florida Panthers did in round one, winning the series’ third contest in overtime.
Ahead of Saturday’s late-afternoon game number four in Tampa, the Lightning were calm, cool and collected, with an opportunity to take a stranglehold on their second round series, Carolina attempting to tie and regain home ice. It would be crucial for Tampa Bay to grab ahold of the game early, and not let Carolina keep their mojo rolling following a win.
Point punches through following pressure from Bolts
The first period was, for the most part, controlled by the Lightning. Pat Maroon had the best chance before the game’s first goal was scored, forcing a turnover in Carolina ice. He got a backhander off, but Petr Mrazek got a piece.
After the Bolts continued to lean and drew the game’s first power play, it was at even strength they would grab the opening goal of the tilt. Brayden Point finished off some absolutely gorgeous passing, taking an Ondrej Palat feed and beating Mrazek.
Despite another chance on the man-advantage, and thanks to some key stops from Andrei Vasilevskiy, the Bolts took a 1-0 lead to the room after one.
Hurricanes bury two to set second period tone
To start the second period, Tampa Bay had nothing going for them. They didn’t get their first shot on net until well into the frame, and surrendered two goals in the process.
First, it was Teuvo Teravainen who received a Jordan Stall dish from behind the goal line and blasted it by Vasilevskiy to tie the game at one. That was just the beginning for the Hurricanes, who struck again 39 seconds later.
Next, Jesper Fast found one in the paint from his belly and banged it home to make it 2-1 Carolina.
Stamkos cleans up mess, quick response from Hurricanes
Steven Stamkos would tie the game up following a mad scramble in the Canes crease. Alex Killorn clanged one off the crossbar and it created an empty net for Stamkos, who buried it.
Carolina wasn’t phased and continued what looked like it was going to be a strong period for them. A point shot from Dougie Hamilton and a puck with eyes from Jaccob Slavin gave the Hurricanes a 4-2 edge.
Wheels come off, Bolts rifle off three to close period
With the earlier Stamkos goal being a power play marker, the message on the Hurricanes bench was surely to keep out of the box. Regardless, it took just moments more time on the power play for Nikita Kucherov to get the Lightning within one.
The Lightning wound up with six power plays by the end of the second, and buried on three of them, the second one of the period, however, not coming before a Tyler Johnson goal tied the game.
Johnson with an absolute snipe on the rush, taking a pass from Ross Colton and wiring it home from the high slot.
Finally, to conclude an absolutely bonkers second period, it was the aforementioned power play goal, a rocket off the stick of Stamkos that gave the Lightning a 5-4 lead after forty minutes.
The second period was one the Canes let slip away. They had everything going their way with the two early goals, but between penalty trouble and just a run-and-gun pace to the period, they allowed the Lightning to open things up and nab a lead after two periods.
The period, with eight combined goals, marks the first time since 2010 that two teams combined for that many goals in a postseason stanza.
Kucherov’s second steers Bolts one win closer
The third period saw the game return to a degree of normalcy, with the pace slowing back down. Kucherov was able to grab his second of the game, and the Lightning would cruise on the back of solid defensive play and strong goaltending, to a 3-1 series lead.
Kucherov joined a rush with Ondrej Palat and wired home the one-timer along the ice to beat Mrazek. That was the only goal of the frame, and, just like that, the Lightning were one win away from advancing to the third round.
The series will resume in Raleigh on Tuesday night, with the Bolts looking to close this one out.
Our three stars of the game
- Nikita Kucherov: Two goals and an assist in a monstrous night for 86.
- Steven Stamkos: Lethal from the office and all over the ice during a multi-goal effort.
- Andrei Svechnikov: Two assists.
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