Welcome back to the Final Four, Tampa, you’ve earned it. The Tampa Bay Lightning could see themselves facing the New York Islanders for the second time in a row after beating the Carolina Hurricanes 2-0 in Game 5 of their Central Division Final series. The Lightning win the series 4-1, their only loss coming in Game 3 in overtime.
Brayden Point (third round, 2014) and Ross Colton (fourth round, 2016) scored the two goals for the Lightning on a total of 25 shots. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped all 29 shots he faced. Mikhail Sergachev was very impressive on defense, blocking two crucial shots in the second period between the 1-0 and 2-0 goals.
Let’s get into the game.
We got a bit of special teams right off the bat, with Nino Niederreiter going to the box for slashing Stamkos during a scoring chance, and then the Lightning got called for too many men. On the Bolts power play, they had a couple good chances, but they struggled to establish time in the offensive zone. The Canes on the other side were in the offensive zone for a fair bit of time, but weren’t able to threaten Vasilevskiy very might. Just as that penalty ended, Barclay Goodrow and Victor Hedman got away for a 2-on-1 but the winger couldn’t connect on the pass across.
Then, Blake Coleman got into a disagreement defender Brady Skjei, which led to a fight. Both were given roughing minors instead of fighting majors, leading to some 4-on-4 action. The Lightning were really good in this area, getting some of their better chances. The key for the Bolts was the increased space allowed them to feed their cross-ice passes more cleanly. They got a couple really great looks, including an especially good one from Hedman.
The big defenseman was very noticeable in the offensive zone in the first period.
Nedeljkovic was annoyingly very good against the Lightning in the first period. He was getting across for shots and his pad work was very rapid.
As the period was ending, Stamkos hit Skjei from behind, causing Aho to go after him, and to add to the fray, Cernak went after Pesce. Only Stamkos and Aho got roughing minors to start the second period.
- Shot attempts: 16-19 (46%)
- Shots on goal: 7-9
- Scoring chances: 11-7
- Expected goals: 1.04-0.94 (53%)
We definitely could’ve seen a couple goals if not for the outstanding goaltending from both sides. Vasilevskiy made a couple important stops, while Nedeljkovic definitely saved a goal. Carolina had the volume off the rush and following cycles, but the Lightning were getting their chances right in front of the net.
Early in the period Pat Maroon was getting into a jawing match with Jani Hakanpaa, who carelessly took an interference penalty immediately following a faceoff. The Lightning on the power play struggled to get in the zone, but eventually did when the Canes overextended themselves, but it still took a clutch pass from Killorn and a brilliant deke from Point to beat Nedeljkovic, but they did. Point scored his eighth goal of the postseason and critically broke open Game 5.
Here is the chance by Trocheck that Vasilevskiy stole seconds before the Point goal. If Vasilevskiy didn’t get a glove on this shot, it would’ve been a much different game.
Trocheck with a short-handed chance as the Hurricanes' penalty kill gets back to work pic.twitter.com/n2F6Az05pa— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) June 8, 2021
Following the goal, the Canes started to put on the pressure and the Lightning backed off their offense significantly. As usual, a combination of Vasilevskiy and shot blocking kept the Lightning in front, but the Canes were really starting to get close. Continuing in this fashion definitely would’ve ended badly.
A big part of the defense was Mikhail Sergachev throwing the body left and right to not hit players, but speeding pucks. During a fast break by the Canes, Sergachev dove to his left and blocked a shot with his skate. A few minutes later, while covering a 3-on-2 rush, lept forward to attack the trailing Canes defender and blocked a second shot with his butt. The Canes were moving the puck around a lot, causing the Lightning to be pulled left and right, Sergachev did a great job of staying on his skates as much as possible, and being alert and agile enough to get to where he needed to be.
Stamkos “scored” at the very end of the second period, but his shot went in 0.6 seconds after the period buzzer went. It was a clear-cut case.
- Shot attempts: 13-14 (48%)
- Shots on goal: 4-9
- Scoring chances: 7-9
- Expected goals: 0.59-0.68 (47%)
Point, Sergachev, and Vasilevskiy were the stars of that period for the Lightning. The first scored his playoff-tying eighth goal, while the latter two saved at least two goals between them.
The Canes were desperate for offense after giving up the goal and tilted the ice as much as they could. The Lightning turtled a little bit, but got themselves out of that funk by the end of the period. The third would start 4-on-4 with Stamkos and Aho in the box.
Point had a big chance on a breakaway through the defense after getting released by Palat, but Nedeljkovic closed the five hole. There was an earlier chance with Ross Colton where Nedeljkovic completely left the net, but Colton couldn’t get a stick on the puck.
Tyler Johnson kicked off a dangerous pair of chances for the fourth line after he beat his check in the neutral zone (Hakanpaa). He burst down the wing and fed Maroon for a chance, but Big Rig just couldn’t get his stick on it. Johnson recovered his own rebound and threw it back in front for the trailing Ross Colton. The rookie got two chances on the net, but couldn’t elevate the first and elevated the second too high.
Third time’s the charm! Ross Colton extended the Lightning’s lead off another rush by the fourth line. Erik Cernak threw back Tylor Lorentz in the neutral zone, allowing Colton to streak back the other way with Maroon up the middle and Johnson at the far side. Colton kept, shot low right side, and beat Nedeljkovic with the quick wrister.
While in the offensive zone, Ondrej Palat hit Pesce high in the head, and took an illegal check to the head penalty as a result. It was a hit similar to one Nazem Kadri got suspended eight games for in the first round, so Palat could be facing some supplemental discipline.
The Canes used the power play to get some offensive chances, but they couldn’t score. Martin Necas had the best chance. The defense did a great job of not letting the Canes get possession on any of Vasilevskiy’s few rebounds.
The six defenders were genuinely good at limiting second chances. The Canes instead targeted the trailing forward or defenseman and hoped to take advantage of the chaos in front of the net and Vasilevskiy possibly being down and out.
With just under three minutes left, the Canes pulled the goalies and pushed hard for two goals. Stamkos pushed the Canes out of the zone and nearly stole the puck into the open net, but it went into the corner instead. Sergachev tried to get a point shot through, but there were four Canes in the way that blocked it.
The Canes got back in the zone but couldn’t get their asses off the boards. The play entered the final minute and fans were screaming for a shot, none came. 30 seconds left, Palat had a chance to put it away but hit the post! 10 seconds left, Cirelli blocks a shot. Zero seconds left, and the Tampa Bay Lightning advance!
Full Game 5v5 Stats
- Shot attempts: 43-50 (46%)
- Shots on goal: 21-24
- Scoring chances: 31-23
- Expected goals: 2.59-2.36 (52%)
The Lightning cut off the middle of the ice, and particularly the front of the net with really strong defensive play from the defenders and centers. The wingers pressured high and pushed the puck out when there were mistakes in the top of the zone. Vasilevskiy was solid. This is how the Lightning held the lead en route to the win.
Here’s what the final shot map looked like, you can see pretty clearly how much deeper the blob in front of the net the Lightning were able to produce compared to what Carolina created. The Canes got a lot of offense from the rush, but they were pushed out to the perimeter.
The Canes are a team that is against taking point shots, and they refused to revert to that despite not getting the quality of looks they wanted, so credit to them there. The problem the Canes faced was lacking in volume once they couldn’t get quality. Their offense dried up in the 6-on-5 and made it look easy for the Lightning.