With four wins down, the Lightning have 12 to go in their pursuit of a second consecutive Stanley Cup.
After eliminating Florida 4-2 in a best-of-seven series, Tampa Bay will face Carolina in the second round.
The Hurricanes beat the Predators in six games, clinching the series with a 4-3 overtime win on Thursday.
Before the Lightning open the series Sunday in Raleigh, N.C., here are five Hurricanes players who could make a big impact.
Sebastian Aho, center
Aho led the Hurricanes in goals (24), assists (33) and points (57) during the regular season, averaging a point per game in the shortened 56-game season.
He’s also been a crucial part of Carolina’s power play, tying Vincent Trocheck and Dougie Hamilton for the most points with the man-advantage (18).
Aho has kept up his production in the playoffs, leading his team in goals (five) and points (seven) in the first round.
Notable moment from this postseason: Aho scored two goals in the series-clinching Game 6, including the winner in overtime. It was his second two-goal game of the series.
Against the Lightning: Aho has fared well, with two goals and four assists in eight games. His second-period goal on March 27 tied the score at 2 before the Hurricanes went on to win 4-3.
Signature stat: The top-line center has scored a combined 320 points over five regular seasons and has been his team’s leading scorer since 2017-18, his second season with the Hurricanes.
Jordan Staal, center
This isn’t Jordan Staal’s first playoff run. Far from it, actually.
Staal has competed in the postseason nine times during his 15-year career, including the past three years. And he’s having another strong postseason his year.
Staal’s four goals in the first round were second to Aho on the Hurricanes and tied for third in the league behind Aho and Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon (6).
Notable moment from this postseason: Staal’s winning goal Tuesday in overtime gave the Hurricanes a 3-2 lead in the series.
Against the Lightning: Staal had one goal and two assists in eight regular-season games against Tampa Bay. His power-play assist on March 27 led to the game-winning goal from Martin Necas.
Signature stat: The third-line center played in his 1,000th career game on April 11. He became only the second Hurricanes player to reach the mark, joining Ron Francis.
Dougie Hamilton, defenseman
Hamilton was one of the top-scoring defensemen in the league during the regular season, leading Carolina blueliners in goals (10), assists (32) and points (42). His point total was his highest since 2017-18, when he had 44 with Calgary.
Hamilton has continued to find the scoresheet during the postseason, accumulating a goal and three assists.
Notable moment from this postseason: Hamilton scored the tying goal late in the third period Thursday to send Game 6 into overtime.
Against the Lightning: Hamilton registered an assist in five of the eight games against Tampa Bay.
Jaccob Slavin, defenseman
Next to Hamilton, Slavin is one of the Hurricanes’ most valuable defensemen — even if the scoresheet doesn’t reflect it.
He had a modest 15 points (three goals, 12 assists) during the regular season but picked up only two penalty minutes in 52 games, tying Minnesota’s Victor Rask and Winnipeg’s Trevor Lewis for least among players who played at least 50 games.
Slavin could also be a frontrunner for this year’s Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, given to the “player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”
Notable moment from this postseason: Slavin returned to action Tuesday after missing the three previous games with a lower-body injury. He assisted on Martin Necas’ tying goal, and his pass to Brett Pesce helped lead to Staal’s overtime winner in Game 5. His game-high 26:08 helped to give the Hurricanes the push they needed to take a 3-2 in the series.
Against the Lightning: Slavin did not have a point against the Lightning this season. Tampa Bay was the only team in the realigned Central Division that kept him off the scoresheet in the shortened season.
Signature stat: Slavin had one two-point game and 13 one-point games this season. With a little more time to get reacclimated, he could pose a threat, along with Hamilton. He assisted on the tying and winning goals in Carolina’s series-clinching win Thursday against Nashville.
Alex Nedeljkovic, goaltender
Alex Nedeljkovic bounced from one chaotic situation to another from the start of the season. The rookie was placed on waivers for cap relief on Jan. 13. After clearing waivers, he was forced into a tandem pairing with regular backup James Reimer after Petr Mrazek was sidelined for 31 games with a thumb injury.
Nedeljkovic made the most of his 23 starts, going 15-5-3 with three shutouts. Before this season, he’d played in only six games in his NHL career. Over the past couple of weeks, he’s made that many starts in the postseason.
Notable moment from this postseason: Nedeljkovic made a pair of crucial saves In the final moments of regulation in Game 4 against the Predators Sunday to keep the score tied at 3. He reached up with his glove to make a save on the right post before sprawling to his left to block a rebound attempt with his leg pad.
Against the Lightning: Nedeljkovic went 2-1 with a .963 save percentage, turning away 75 of the Lightning’s 78 shots on goal.
Signature stat: Nedeljkovic has the ninth-best goals-against average (2.22) and one shutout over his six playoff starts. Among goalies who played at least 20 games during the regular season, he topped the leaderboards with a 1.90 GAA and .932 save percentage, turning away 604 of the 648 shots he faced.
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