In 2019, the Boston Bruins swept them out of the postseason. This time around, the Tampa Bay Lightning were waiting at home for them to arrive, but the Hurricanes were in search of a very different result.
For more information on how this series works, please refer to part one of the series.
Here’s how games one and two of the 2020 Eastern Conference Final played out, according to NHL 20’s simulation engine.
For the second year in a row, the Hurricanes opened up their Eastern Conference Final series on the road.
They showed a spark early in game one, scoring the game’s first goal at 3:49. Sebastian Aho’s offensive zone face off win resulted in a Dougie Hamilton point shot getting deflected in the high slot by Andrei Svechnikov. Svechnikov’s goal got Carolina off and running, but that didn’t last.
Momentum switched in the other direction near the mid-point of the opening frame. Tyler Johnson rang a long-range snap shot off of the far-side post on an unsuspecting Petr Mrazek. That close call really brought on the awakening of the Lightning in the second half of the period.
In the final 10 minutes of the first period, the Bolts outshot the Canes 10-3.
Mrazek was stellar in the period, keeping Tampa off of the scoresheet, but he needed much more in the way of help if that was to stay the same.
That help wasn’t there in the first half of the second period, and the Lightning took advantage of it in the form of two goals.
Johnson made good on his missed opportunity, scoring the game-tying goal just under seven minutes into the period.
He worked tirelessly in front of the Canes’ goal during a good cycling shift from the Bolts, eventually getting the box out on Joel Edmundson and depositing a rebound chance on top of the crease. Kevin Shattenkirk got the point shot on net through traffic and led to the big goal.
Not even two minutes later, the Lightning took the lead. Victor Hedman delivered a beautiful stretch pass from the depths of his own defensive zone onto the streaking stick of Nikita Kucherov on the other side of the center-ice line. Kucherov won a race to the outside on Edmundson before cutting back to the middle of the ice and rifling a quick shot over Mrazek’s glove.
The highlight reel goal gave the Lightning a 2-1 lead and went a long way in deciding game one.
The Hurricanes tried to mount some offense late in the period, but they were seemingly one pass away every time. They were close, but they weren’t close enough to create the big chance that could’ve made a difference.
Those missed opportunities late in the second period were really felt in the third period, as the Lightning played some phenomenal shutdown hockey en route to securing a game-one victory.
Carolina’s best chance came at 13:05 by way of a Martin Necas breakaway chance. The Czech rookie got behind the defense and received a perfect stretch pass from Jake Gardiner. Despite beating Andrei Vasilevskiy with his shot, it went straight off the crossbar and stayed out of the net.
The Canes pulled their goalie late, but they couldn’t break through. The Bolts had a couple of chances on the empty net, but Jaccob Slavin saved two potential goals with his positioning and stick skills.
Game one saw a valiant effort from both sides. It felt like a playoff game, to be sure, but unfortunately for the Hurricanes, it was the Lightning who closed it out and got the extra bounce they needed.
Tampa Bay’s opening 10 minutes was much better in game two, and their start really set the tone of the game.
Brayden Point opened the scoring at 7:10 of the opening frame. He was on the receiving end of a perfect pass from Kucherov on the power play. He fired a quick one-time shot over the outstretched pad of Mrazek for the first power play-goal scored in the series.
A few minutes later, the Bolts were given another power play opportunity. Jordan Martinook floored Yanni Gourde, sending the forward into the boards from an awkward angle. Martinook got two minutes for boarding, and the Lightning put another one on the board.
Mikhail Sergachev pinched down in the offensive zone at the tail end of a long shift. He caught the Canes off guard and scored a relatively easy backdoor tap-in to make it 2-0. The goal marked four unanswered goals from the Lightning in the series after the Hurricanes scored the first goal in game one.
The second period offered more in the way of back-and-forth action. Vincent Trocheck faced the same music his line mate Necas did in game one when he rang a shot off of the post and out of play five minutes into the period.
A big save from Mrazek on a two-on-one led to an odd-man chance the other way for the Hurricanes. Jordan Staal was robbed by Vasilevskiy’s glove hand off of a cross-seam pass from Justin Williams.
Tampa Bay locked it down more effectively in the second half of the period, managing to keep the score at 2-0.
The third period offered more of the same for both sides. Carolina couldn’t solve Vasilevskiy, but it wasn’t due to a lack of effort. Tampa’s big Russian goalie was excellent, making save after save after challenging save. The Canes’ last big chance came with six minutes left in the game. A two minute power play saw Svechnikov fire a shot off of the blocker of Vasilevskiy and then off of the post and out of play.
That was the story of the night for the Hurricanes, who saw a number of chances come together in game two, but they couldn’t finish.
The Lightning won game two by a final score of 2-0, matching their lead in the best-of-seven series.
The series will shift to Raleigh for games three and four, where the Hurricanes will need to show some dominance on home ice after dropping both games one and two.