After a last-minute change in their schedule, the Tampa Bay Lightning went to Raleigh a couple of days earlier than initially expected. The Carolina Hurricanes, despite playing a game on Friday night, still looked more fresh than the Lightning as they shut them out for the second time this season, 4-0.
For the second time this season, the Lightning couldn’t score a single goal against the Canes. In the first meeting it was Petr Mrazek shutting them out. This time it was Alex Nedeljkovic, who made 24 saves and recorded his first career shutout in the NHL.
The first minute of the game wasn’t finished when the Lightning went on their first penalty kill. Erik Cernak tripped Warren Foegele to prevent him running away on a breakaway. The Canes didn’t make use of the opportunity as the Bolts kept them from any decent scoring chances and the Canes finished their power play not only goalless, but without even a shot on goal.
While the Canes mostly relied on a positional attack, spending a lot of time in the Lightning defensive zone, the Bolts used their speed to get inside the Canes blue line. Both teams played very solid defensively, not giving many scoring chances to their opponents. The Hurricanes were clearly better at forechecking and retrieving the puck in the offensive zone.
At the half-period mark the Hurricanes got their best chance of the period when Nino Niederreiter fed Vincent Trocheck with a great long pass, Trocheck passed through Mikhail Sergachev but was stopped by Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Lightning didn’t have many dangerous chances during the first period, their best chance came after a backhand pass by Alex Killorn, who was playing in his 600th career game, but the puck bounced between the legs of Tyler Johnson and was picked up by Alex Nedeljkovic.
The numbers also corresponded with the eye test: the Hurricanes controlled the possession, leading the game in shots on goal (9 against 6) and expected goals (1.14 against 0.74). The Lightning were slightly better at face-offs, but other than that the first period were pretty even.
The second period started at a clearly better pace for the Lightning: the Yanni Gourde line had a great opening shift and, moments later, Brayden Point hit the post on a backhand. Unfortunately, it was the Hurricanes who celebrated the first goal of the game just two minutes into the second period. Niederreiter shot the puck from the right circle, it deflected off Alex Killorn’s skate, Vasilevskiy stretched almost enough to seal off the far post, but the puck had already went in the net. Eventually, Trocheck was credited with this goal.
Six minutes into the period, the Lightning went on their first power play after Sebastian Aho was called for slashing. The Bolts had a couple of decent chances prior to the skater advantage, including the one on the delayed penalty call, but Blake Coleman decided to pass the puck instead of shooting it. On that power play the Lightning didn’t look very sharp and allowed a very dangerous shorthanded chance, when Jordan Staal robbed Victor Hedman and ran away on a 2-on-1 with Brock McGinn, but Vasilevskiy came through with the stop.
After the power play expired, the Lightning had a chance to tie the game: Ryan McDonagh walked towards the Hurricanes net and delivered the puck to Brayden Point, but instead of scoring the equalizer they lost the puck and allowed another breakaway by Niederreiter, who was once again stopped by Vasilevskiy. A moment later Dougie Hamilton also hit the post.
At the midway mark the Hurricanes extended their lead. McGinn forced Brayden Point to make a poor pass to Ondrej Palat, who couldn’t reach it. Andrei Svechnikov retrieved the puck and made a quick pass to Sebastian Aho, who chipped it over Vasilevskiy’s poke check, making it 2-0.
The Canes had been aggressively pressing the Bolts the whole period, forcing them to make a lot of turnovers, which led to multiple breakaways. The Canes could have easily scored more if not for Vasilevskiy performance.
The Lightning had an advantage in shots on goal (13 against 7), high-danger chances (7 against 3) and expected goal share (61.25% xGF), however couldn’t finish off any of their chances, unlike the Hurricanes who converted their chances and played more efficient defense.
The third period started with another turnover in the Lightning defensive zone: Jordan Martinook robbed Alex Volkov on a clearing attempt, but couldn’t score on Vasilevskiy. Jake Bean controlled the rebound and delivered the puck to our old friend Cedric Paquette, who finished it off from the slot.
Despite that mistake from Alex Volkov, he and his line didn’t have a bad game. The Russian forward received a boost of confidence after scoring three goals in two previous games and clearly was looking to add to that total. He had a chance during the second period after a cross-ice pass from Patrick Maroon, but was denied by Nedeljkovic. Later in the third period he had probably the best Lightning chance to cut the Canes lead, but his shot from lower point in right circle was one again stopped by Nedeljkovic shoulder.
With the game nearing its end, Jon Cooper tried some new line combination in attempts to bring a fresh air in the Lightning performance. Brayden Point was sent to center Mathieu Joseph and Blake Coleman, Tyler Johnson joined Ondrej Palat and Steven Stamkos on the same line.
With 6:22 to go in the third period Tyler Johnson was called for tripping, sending his team to another penalty kill. The Lightning killed it off, making it the third game in a row without allowing a goal on penalty kill. Positives!
With three minutes to go, the Lightning pulled Andrei Vasilevskiy for extra attacker, but allowed an empty-netter to Svechnikov. The Lightning for the third time in the last four games and for the second time against the Hurricanes this regular season.
The two teams will be back at it for the second game in their four game series on Monday.