The Carolina Hurricanes find themselves with their backs against the wall.
Down 3-1 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final, Rod Brind’Amour’s group is out of excuses and out of town - it’s win or go home.
To this point, the Hurricanes have answered the bell in must-win games, but this is another level.
For more information on how this series works, please refer to part one of the series.
Here’s how games five and six went down between the Hurricanes and Lightning in the 2020 Eastern Conference Final, according to the simulation engine in NHL 20.
For the first time in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Hurricanes had their backs against the wall in a potential elimination game - and they played like it.
Carolina opened the scoring at 7:32 of the first period. Jake Gardiner delivered a perfect stretch pass onto the stick of Warren Foegele to spark an odd-man rush. Foegele took the shot, and the rebound deflected off of defenseman Victor Hedman and back to Foegele for a rebound goal.
The Canes kept their foot on the gas as the opening period progressed, jumping out to a 13-5 lead in shots on goal through twenty minutes.
An early second-period penalty on Nikita Kucherov gifted the Hurricanes an opportunity to cushion their lead.
A great passing sequence from the trio of Andrei Svechnikov, Sebastian Aho, and Teuvo Teravainen led to a booming one-timer from Dougie Hamilton that went off the right post and by Andrei Vasilevskiy to make it 2-0.
The Bolts mounted a bit of a push back as the halfway point of the game came and went, but Petr Mrazek had a marvelous outing in the first of Carolina’s elimination games in the Eastern Conference Final.
The second period came to a close with the Hurricanes still holding onto a two-goal lead.
Tampa Bay put together its best stretch of play in the early stages of the third period with some maintained offensive zone possession. That possession led to a holding penalty on Justin Williams, which opened the door for the Bolts to get back into the game.
Brayden Point deposited a one-timer over the glove of Mrazek with 17:10 left in the third period to cut the Carolina lead in half.
From there, the Hurricanes locked things down in impressive fashion. In the final 10 minutes of the third period, the Lightning only put four shots on Mrazek, and their bets chance came in the form of a Steven Stamkos shot missing the net on a rebound opportunity.
The game was capped off by an empty net goal at 18:32 by Brock McGinn off a defensive zone clear by Jaccob Slavin.
The Hurricanes went to Tampa Bay and staved off elimination with a great 60-minute effort. The win cut their series deficit in half and shifted the series back to PNC Arena for game six.
In front of a packed home crowd with their season still on the line, the Hurricanes dominated from start to finish.
Aho opened the scoring halfway through the first period, sliding a breakaway chance through the legs of Vasilevskiy to ignite the building and get his team going. Jordan Staal’s line followed up the goal with a long offensive zone shift that resulted in a power play for the Canes.
On that power play, Aho rifled a shot off the crossbar, but the puck was regathered by Svechnikov and re-centered to Teravainen for a tap-in goal at the top of the crease. The tally marked two goals in 64 seconds and put the Lightning on their heels in an instant.
With 3:02 left in the first period, the Hurricanes got another power play, and they scored again.
Gardiner feathered a long-range wrist shot through an initial wave of traffic, and the shot got deflected in front by Staal for a goal to make it 3-0 in the first period. The Canes went two-for-two on the man advantage in the opening period, and that went a long way in burying the Bolts in game six.
The second period dialed back the firepower pretty dramatically. Tampa and Carolina combined for just eight shots on goal in a very tight-checking 20 minutes of physical playoff hockey.
Sparks flew with six minutes left in the period, when Joel Edmundson and Erik Cernak dropped the gloves for a heavyweight bout.
The third period was more of the same from the second period, but the Hurricanes took advantage of their opportunities along the way to force a game seven.
Williams scored early in the period to make it 4-0. That goal was answered by Tyler Johnson off a beautiful backdoor pass from Kevin Shattenkirk, but that was the only tally that the Bolts could collect in the game.
A pinching Brady Skjei stole a breakout pass and scored a gorgeous goal with seven minutes left in the game to make it 5-1, which is what the score remained.
The Hurricanes put two excellent games together in games five and six, climbing back in the series from down 3-1 to force game seven back in Tampa Bay.