After putting 38 shots on goal in a Game 1 loss, the Hurricanes entered Game 2 talking about the need to make things more difficult for Andrei Vasilevskiy by getting bodies in front of the Lightning goaltender.
Instead, they made them easier with a wildly inaccurate display of shooting.
With his poise, patience and positioning, Vasilevskiy might be the toughest goalie in the league to score against, particularly in the postseason. He gets better the busier he is, as evidenced by his 68 saves on 70 shots the past two games.
So Carolina tried to beat him with a high volume of shots and by getting into his field of vision. But all the shots in the world don’t matter if you don’t get them on net. Of the Hurricanes’ 65 total shots, fewer than half (32) merited Vasilevskiy’s attention.
And as the Lightning’s Alex Killorn showed, even a seemingly harmless shot from long distance has a chance of going in if it’s accurate. That is how a Lightning team that was outshot 32-15 managed to come away with a 2-1 win and two-game lead in the second-round series.
To be sure, The Lightning did a nice job of closing off the middle in their zone and forcing the Hurricanes to look for their scoring opportunities from the outside, usually off the rush. Carolina had several promising chances but too often missed the net.
Teuvo Teravainen shot wide a couple of times from low in the left circle in the first period. Dougie Hamilton missed on a 2-on-1, and Sebastian Aho fired high. The Hurricanes’ best chance might have come when a Vincent Trocheck blast from the left circle hit Vasilevskiy in the facemask.
Martin Necas missed wide with Vasilevskiy down on the ice during a 2-on-1 in the second. An off-balance Aho shot wide from the slot during an early third-period power play, and Aho sent the puck back through the crease on a backdoor opportunity with the net empty in the closing minutes.
Of course, the Lightning had something to do with Carolina’s shooting woes, with 16 blocks. Ryan McDonagh broke up a pass on a 3-on-2. Mikhail Sergachev got a stick on an Andrei Svechnikov pass for Jordan Staal, who was crashing the net, and Sergachev blocked a Cedric Paquette shot on a 3-on-2.
While the Hurricanes did a good job of pressuring the Lightning and limiting their scoring chances, the only thing that mattered in the end was that Tampa found the back of the net once more than Carolina did.
Here is how we graded the rest of the Lightning’s performance in their Game 2 win.
Killorn was the most effective skater on the ice for the Lightning, with linemate Anthony Cirelli a close second. It should be no coincidence, then, that they scored the two Tampa Bay goals.
With all of the firepower on Tampa Bay’s top two lines, it’s easy to overlook Killorn. But he creates havoc all over the ice, forces turnovers and generates scoring chances, both in 5-on-5 play and on the power play.
His second-period goal was an example of Killorn making something out of nothing, as he whipped a seemingly harmless shot on net from just inside the blue line. Cirelli took away goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic’s eyes with a screen in front, and Killorn’s shot beat Nedeljkovic on the glove side.
Fittingly, it was Killorn’s blood on the ice that caused a stoppage in play after Cirelli’s third-period goal. He was that involved.
After managing just one shot on two power-play opportunities in Game 1, the Lightning were held without a shot on their two man-advantage chances Tuesday — and nearly allowed a short-handed goal.
As they did in Game 1, the Hurricanes pressured Tampa Bay all over the ice, often sending two skaters at the puckcarrier and forcing him to get rid of it quickly. The Lightning hoped that if they could get through the first wave of pressure, they could create some odd-man opportunities, but they were unable to do so.
Their best chance came on a centering feed for Killorn with Aho in the box for slashing Ondrej Palat in the second period. But the puck eluded Killorn’s stick and skittered harmlessly out of the zone.
Grade: D, for dumbfounded
Splash of artistry
With the tight checking making it difficult for either team to generate scoring chances, there wasn’t much artistry to the game. But Cirelli broke up the monotony with a sublime goal midway through the third period.
Receiving a stretch pass from Hedman near center ice that was a bit behind him, Cirelli played the puck away from Brady Skjei, then outraced the Carolina defender to the net before beating Nedeljkovic stickside with a nifty backhand shot.
What seemed an insurance goal at the time turned out to be the game-winner.
Lightning defenseman Jan Rutta, who had no goals during the regular season and has never scored in the postseason, had a golden opportunity late in the second period.
After a pass from Barclay Goodrow out of the corner, Rutta found himself with the puck on his stick all alone at the top of the slot. But with no traffic in front, Nedeljkovic came out of the net to challenge Rutta, and his shot went high off the crossbar up over the net.
It would have been a nice milestone for Rutta, who played more than 19 minutes in Game 1 with the Lightning down to five defensemen, but it was not to be.
Grade: D, for disappointing
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