Two well rested teams known for generating a lot of offensive chances should make for an entertaining, high-scoring game, right? Wrong. It was a goaltenders duel between Andrei Vasilevskiy and Petr Mrazek Thursday night. Carolina ended up with the 1-0 win in overtime when Martin Necas found the back of the net. It was the first loss of Vasilevskiy’s career in Raleigh.
Both teams had line-up changes, with Carolina missing several players due to their bout with COVID. The Lightning were without Erik Cernak or Mitchell Stephens, but they did get Blake Coleman back while Luke Schenn filled in for Cernak on the right side of the defense.
The period started off pretty well for the Lightning as the Carolina forecheck was a little too forechecky as Brock McGinn hooked Brayden Point behind the Lightning net just a minute into the game. Unless you like failed entries and a lot of circling with the puck, there wasn’t much to enjoy about the Lightning man-advantage and it went by the wayside goalless.
A few minutes after their uneventful power play they gifted a power play to Carolina. Ryan McDonagh almost lost the puck to Morgan Geekie by the Lightning net and then was stuck chasing the play a bit. He slashed Geekie and was sent to the box.
The Carolina power play was much more active starting with a wicked wrister from Andrei Svechnikov that had Vasilevskiy looking behind him. Sebastian Aho had a prime chance that he rang off the post as the Hurricanes moved the puck around the zone with alacrity. In the end they couldn’t score and the Lightning bounced back with a couple of solid shifts.
One thing was sure as the period progressed, the Hurricanes were by far the fastest team the Lightning had faced so far this season. The Bolts were a little passive with the puck and showed some signs of rust while Carolina kept attacking and piling up the shot attempts as they are wanton to do.
The Lightning’s best chance came from Victor Hedman as he activated from the defense and received a lucky bounce as the puck hit a skate and came right to him in the slot. His shot was stopped by Mrazek as was the rebound attempt by Steven Stamkos.
Vasilevskiy was sharp on several tough chances (mostly by Svechnikov) and picked up 15 saves in the period. Good thing he likes seeing a lot of action in his game, because it was apparent that the Hurricanes were intent on getting the puck to the net.
Tampa Bay caught a break at the end of the period when another forecheck penalty was called against Carolina. Ryan Dzingel was whistled for....something (hooking) while battling for the puck with McDonagh. There was enough time for the Lightning to win a face-off and watch as Victor Hedman’s shot skittered wide from the point.
Fresh ice for the rest of the power play! It didn’t matter. Hedman ripped a shot from just outside the right circle but Mrazek saw it all the way. Then it was back to the Lightning not being able to get into their usual cycling and puck movement. Carolina killed the remainder fairly easily.
Pat Maroon with a nice chance in front of the net as he cut in front of the net after Joseph slid a pass to him. The Big Rig tried to stuff a backhand home but Mrazek was up to the challenge and successfully kept the puck out of the net.
The first half of the period the ice was tilted in favor of the Lightning as they kept the puck off of the Hurricane’s sticks. Every line had their chances even if they weren’t able to find the back of the net. They fed Carolina a little of their own medicine by racking up a 18-4 shot attempt advantage at even strength through the first ten minutes.
Carolina found their legs a little in the latter part of the period as they evened out the play a bit and threw some pucks at Vasilevskiy. A late face-off in in the Lightning zone didn’t leave enough time on the clock for the Canes to score, but the 3.5 seconds were enough for Victor Hedman to slash Brock McGinn’s stick, for which he was penalized.
The refs apparently didn’t want to see the fourth lines on the ice as the first few minutes of the final frame were filled with special teams play. The Hurricanes were unsuccessful on the carry-over power play as well as a second opportunity afforded to them following a Steven Stamkos tripping penalty (no Lady Byng for The Captain this season).
With seven minutes left in the period, the Lightning got their third chance with an extra skater when Morgan Geekie was whistled for a holding penalty. The advantage didn’t last too long as Alex Killorn picked up an interference penalty. Both teams wanted to have fun as Carolina lined up Aho and Svechnikov against Stamkos and Point.
When McDonagh blew a tire retreating on a play it opened up some space for Aho to feed the puck over to Svechnikov, but Vasilevskiy said no.
Then he said no again
Mrazek wouldn’t be outshined in his own building as he denied Blake Coleman on a bang-bang play in front of the net as Barclay Goodrow put a backhand pass right on the tape.
After a brief period of the two goaltenders put on a bit of a puck-stopping clinic it was Steven Stamkos with a prime opportunity. The puck bounced between two Canes player and through to Stamkos who was free and clear to the net. Nothing fancy from Stamkos as he wound up and drilled a slapshot at the net. It didn’t go in...just impacted on the surface (or the crossbar).
The Lightning applied a lot of pressure in the final two minutes but couldn’t jam one past Mrazek or the Canes supporting defense. The buzzer sounded on regulation with the score knotted at zero.
It was Svechnikov and Aho providing some excitement in the first minute, but they couldn’t beat Vasilevskiy. They were able to maintain possession during a line change and it led to Jordan Staal and Martin Necas hooking up on a give and go that provided the game-winning goal. Necas was able to slip between Hedman and Ondrej Palat to put home a perfect pass from Staal.