Last night was another one of those games that, judged by the final score, wasn’t close. But a few late Tampa Bay Lightning goals (two empty netters) and a couple open nets missed early on by the Carolina Hurricanes made it a closer game than the score indicates.
Especially in the first period, Carolina made Andrei Vasilevskiy move around in the Tampa Bay crease and forced him to clean up rebounds, but couldn’t capitalize on the chances presented. Most memorably, Elias Lindholm flung a wrister off the post that would have given the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead and some serious momentum against arguably the best team in hockey right now.
But alas, Carolina failed to score in the first period, even with two power plays, while allowing a last-minute goal at the end of a Lightning power play. Ondrej Palat drove the net, flipped the puck on Scott Darling, and a bobble by the goalie gave Tyler Johnson an easy mop-up from the left post to negate almost any positive energy for the Hurricanes to take into the locker room.
Early in the second, Carolina could barely get any shots going and would only multiply the troubles with a mistake halfway through the period. As the Hurricanes scurried back to defend a rush by the Lightning, Trevor van Riemsdyk accidentally ran into Darling trying to block a Stamkos shot, and Darling had to hokey pokey himself back around. But it was too late for a reaction to Mikhail Sergachev’s dart.
Though the Hurricanes would create some pressure around the crease later in the second period, maybe even more so than the first, the Lightning would lay good blocks and Vasilevskiy made plenty of saves to end the second period at a 2-0 advantage.
Before the third period, Jordan Staal told Mike Maniscalco that the Hurricanes were bound to get a “greasy” puck in by Vasilevskiy (whose name resembles Vaseline, I might add). Well, just past the three minute mark in the third, the fourth line nearly slipped one past him at the crease, but the grease wasn’t there. So Jaccob Slavin said, “That’s okay, I’ll just snipe one.”
(Fun fact: Josh Jooris got his first point as a Hurricane with an assist on that goal.)
Some big defense (e.g. Vasilevskiy’s save on Ryan’s drive, Kucherov’s stick check on Aho) and bad breaks (e.g. Skinner fanning and falling) prevented the Hurricanes from doing any further damage, and the Lightning have a field day with the empty net: Vladislav Namestnikov and Ryan Callahan make easy work of their two opportunities.
And just to make the loss sting a little more, with four seconds left, Kucherov decided he wanted to hit double-digit goals and promptly went top shelf on Darling. Thanks, Kuch...
It’s going to be a tough one to swallow, even if Slavin admits he thinks the scoring chances are headed in the right direction. And with a road matchup against another strong offense, the Toronto Maple Leafs (and Ron Hainsey), to follow up the lightning-quick Lightning, the Hurricanes need to find ways to not only create but convert opportunities.
(I feel like I’ve heard this story before...)