After falling behind 3-1 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final, the Carolina Hurricanes stormed back and rattled off back-to-back wins to force a game seven.
With their postseason lives on the line in Tampa, could the Hurricanes pull through with another dramatic postseason win?
For more information on how this series works, please refer to part one.
On the first shift of the goal, a tripping penalty on Andrei Svechnikov set the table for an early Lightning goal.
Tampa moved the puck extremely well on the man advantage, eventually wearing down the Canes’ top penalty-killing group and setting up a one-timer from Brayden Point to Nikita Kucherov to the back of the net.
Carolina built their game up from scratch through the rest of the first period. With around five minutes left in the opening frame, they seemed to hit their stride. A long offensive zone shift that lasted from 3:56 to 2:38 on the clock rendered three excellent scoring chances. Jaccob Slavin rang a shot off of the post, Jordan Staal got robbed by the outstretched pad of Andrei Vasilevskiy, and Sebastian Aho missed the net off of a great pass from Svechnikov.
After bending but not breaking, the Bolts put together a strong push in the final ninety seconds of the period, and they scored a goal that felt devastating for the Hurricanes.
Joel Edmundson tried to keep the blue line and rim the puck hard around the offensive zone. His attempt was knocked down by Tyler Johnson, who quickly upped the puck to his line-mates for a long two-on-one rush. Yanni Gourde waited out the Carolina defender and slid a perfect pass across the crease to Patrick Maroon for the tap-in goal to make it a 2-0 game.
That score went on to hold through the end of the first period. The Hurricanes were in a hole.
Rod Brind’Amour’s group played with noticeably more discipline in the second period, both in the way of avoiding penalties and locking down their own zone. As a result, the Bolts were limited to just three shots on goal in the entire period.
Unfortunately, Vasilevskiy made sure that the Canes didn’t find the back of the other net. The elite goalie made eleven saves in the period, including a big glove stop on a long breakaway chance for Aho. Carolina’s centerpiece had a number of great chances through forty minutes, but he couldn’t come through with the big goal.
Until he did.
Just under eight minutes into the third period, Aho had a big moment in a big spot. After winning a board battle against two Tampa players, Aho brought the puck out of the offensive zone corner. Shifting towards the front of the net, he attempted a pass to Teravainen. The puck was knocked down and batted, right to the skate of Aho, who then kicked his foot forward and shoveled the puck onto his stick and into the back of the net in tight to cut the deficit in half.
The Hurricanes continued to push through much of the third period, but they were unable to tie the game before the final four minutes of the frame. Brind’Amour used his timeout with just 3:04 left in regulation. Down by a goal, Carolina’s season was on the line.
Carolina opted to pull Petr Mrazek for a sixth attacker just moments later, so the full-press was on.
A full minute went by and the Hurricanes couldn’t even sustain offensive zone possession. It wasn’t until the two-minute mark came and went that the Canes managed to put things together, but when they did, it was electric.
The Aho line, joined by Jaccob Slavin, Dougie Hamilton, and extra attacker Vincent Trocheck moved the puck with great pace and decisiveness in a high-pressure spot. The extra attacker ended up making the difference.
A wrap-around attempt from Aho got stopped by Vasilevskiy, and the rebound ricocheted in front where a charging Trocheck swooped in and hammered a shot into the open net to tie the game with 59 seconds on the clock.
The Trocheck goal saved Carolina’s season for the time being, forcing overtime in game seven of the Eastern Conference Final.
It just wasn’t in the cards for the Hurricanes, though. 54 seconds into the extra frame, Alex Killorn sent a dart from the top of the right circle right over the glove of Mrazek to win the game and the series.
The Tampa Bay Lightning represented the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Final. Their opponent, the Colorado Avalanche, got the better of them, though. The Avs lifted the holy grail after a game-six victory. Nathan MacKinnon was the Conn Smythe Award winner - he had five goals and eleven points in six games.
Will the Hurricanes’ real life playoff run (assuming there is one) go the same as how the NHL 20 simulation said it would?
I guess we’ll find out.