The Carolina Hurricanes likely are brimming with confidence as they prepare to host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday in Raleigh, N.C.
After all, the Hurricanes have shut out the defending Stanley Cup champions on two occasions this season — including a 4-0 victory on Saturday. Monday’s contest will serve as the second of a four-game set between the teams before they head to Tampa for the next two on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.
The Hurricanes were playing their third game in four nights — usually a major detriment in the NHL — on Saturday, while the Lightning had not played in five days.
The first two matches against Tampa Bay have yielded fantastic results — two games, two shutouts and a shot over the bow at the reigning Cup champs.
Combining a 1-0 overtime shutout of the Lightning on Jan. 28 and the latter portion of their match on Jan. 5, 2020, Hurricanes goaltenders have worked an active streak of 155 minutes, 53 seconds of scoreless hockey against their former rivals in the Southeast Division.
While starting goalie Petr Mrazek held Tampa Bay scoreless last month, it was seldom-used prospect Alex Nedeljkovic who denied all 24 shots to earn his first career shutout in his 10th NHL appearance in Saturday’s game.
The former Florida Everblades goalie in the East Coast Hockey League didn’t have to stand on his head, though he was flat on his back freezing a puck in the closing seconds to preserve the shutout.
“Just playing (the Lightning) is enough,” Nedeljkovic said. “I think at this level it shouldn’t take much to get you going. You’ve got to be ready to play every night and ready to perform.”
Rugged forward Cedric Paquette made his presence felt from the fourth line by getting a goal past his old club. The goal was his first in four games with the Hurricanes.
The Lightning traded Paquette to Ottawa on Dec. 27, then the last-place Senators turned around and dealt him to Carolina less than two months later.
“You could not write a better script than that — only my fourth game here and against my old teammates,” said Paquette, a 2012 fourth-round draft pick by the Lightning. He played 377 games for Tampa Bay.
At this point, the Lightning would also like to get a first goal of their own in a game involving the Hurricanes.
Tampa Bay lost for the third time in four outings on Saturday and dropped consecutive regulation games for the first time this season.
“It would be nice to get the lead against them and see how they play when that happens, but we haven’t been able to do that,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “We weren’t disciplined enough to keep playing the way we needed to.”
An unfortunate ricochet that resulted in Vincent Trocheck’s second-period goal changed the game’s direction on Saturday for Tampa Bay.
“They got a lucky one that went in, and then we chased it and started doing all the things that when you’re trying to win a 1-0, 2-1 game that you just can’t do,” Cooper said.
Added captain Steven Stamkos: “They don’t allow much. They’re a tenacious forechecking team.”
–Field Level Media