After taking care of the Nashville Predators in six games, the Carolina Hurricanes will now move on to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and a meeting with the defending champs, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Like with every Central Division opponent the Canes saw the Lightning plenty this year, facing off against them eight times. The series was remarkably even, with both teams finishing with a 4-3-1 record against the other.
Here are some quick stats about the season series:
- Canes: 4-3-1
- Lightning 4-3-1
- Canes: 18 goals
- Lightning: 17 goals
- Canes: 4 for 28 on power play (14%)
- Lightning 3 for 22 on power play (14%)
Top Scorers in Series
- Martin Necas (CAR): 3 goals, 5 assists, 8 points
- Sebastian Aho (CAR): 4 goals, 2 assists, 6 points
- Alex Killorn (TB): 2 goals, 3 assists, 5 points
- Victor Hedman (TB): 1 goal, 4 assists, 5 points
- Dougie Hamilton (CAR): 5 assists, 5 points
- Andrei Vasilevskiy (TB): 3-3-1, 2.14 GAA, .933 save percentage, SO
- Alex Nedeljkovic (CAR): 2-1, 1.00 GAA, .962 save percentage, SO
With the pair being the two favorites in the Central Division coming into the season, the regular season series between the Hurricanes and Lightning did not disappoint. Both teams won four games and were nearly identical in terms of goals scored and power-play performance, as they battled back and forth all year.
The first two games went to the Canes in commanding fashion, as Carolina shut out the defending cup champs in each of the first two. The first came in January in the Canes’ first game back from a COVID pause, as Petr Mrazek posted a 32-save shutout and Martin Necas tallied in overtime for the 1-0 win.
3-on-3 overtime was made for Martin Necas.— Brett Finger (@brettfinger) January 29, 2021
Jordan Staal finds Necas with a perfect feed and he roofs it on Vasilevski. Down 5 players due to COVID protocol, the Hurricanes beat the Lightning 1-0 in overtime. pic.twitter.com/xwJnIZQuSY
Tampa and Carolina didn’t see each other for another month after that, but then met for four straight games in late February in an exciting early season series. It was Alex Nedeljkovic who posted the shutout in that one, the first of his NHL career, as the Canes won 4-0 (including a goal from former Lightning member and newly acquired Cedric Paquette.
That Nedeljkovic shutout was the only win the Canes got in that four-game stretch against the Lightning, as Tampa took the next three by multiple goals. The Canes were the ones that got shutout in the middle game of those three, as Andrei Vasilevskiy made 25 stops and Ross Colton scored in his NHL debut.
The teams then again took an extended break from each other, meeting again for a one-off game in Raleigh late in March. The Canes overcame an early 2-0 deficit in that one, as Martin Necas tallied four points and Dougie Hamilton extended his franchise-record point streak for a defenseman to 14 games.
Necas putting up big numbers against the Lightning was a common theme, as he led all players in the season series with eight points in the eight games.
The Canes and Lightning wrapped up the season series with a back-to-back in Florida in mid April, with each team winning a game. The first went to the Lightning in overtime, as the Canes clawed back from a 2-0 deficit thanks to goals from Andrei Svechnikov and Brady Skjei before Yanni Gourde ended things in overtime.
The series finale was a commanding 4-1 Canes win the next day, which featured three first-period goals for the Canes from Nino Niederreiter, Jordan Staal and Steven Lorentz. Nedeljkovic stopped 26 of 27 shots faced to win that one.
Now the Hurricanes and Lightning will meet in the playoffs, with Vasilevskiy and Nedeljkovic looking to build on that great regular season form against the other team.
There will be a huge addition on both benches though, as Tampa and Carolina now have a key player that didn’t play in any of the eight regular season games against each other.
For the Hurricanes that is Teuvo Teravainen, who missed a big chunk of the season while battling a concussion but had two points in the Canes’ first-round series against Nashville.
On the other bench it will be former Hart winner Nikita Kucherov returning to the fold. Kucherov missed the entire regular season with a hip injury, but returned to the ice for the Lightning as the playoffs began. In Tampa Bay’s first-round series win over the Florida Panthers, Kucherov had 11 points in six games.
With Teravainen and Kucherov back for their respective teams, things will look a little bit different, but it’s still safe to think this series will be as entertaining as the regular season battle.