The Carolina Hurricanes will avoid looking at the overall tally after two games of their Central Division second-round playoff series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
A review will not be needed for the Hurricanes to work up a palpable sense of desperation heading into Thursday’s Game 3 in Tampa, Fla., with the Lightning leading the series 2-0.
“We’re going toe-to-toe, that’s what it feels like,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “I feel like we’re right there.”
Tampa Bay won both games at Raleigh, N.C., by 2-1 scores and has yet to trail in the series.
The Lightning are up 2-0 for the third time in their last four playoff series. It is the seventh series all-time that Tampa Bay has won the first two games and it has gone on to advance on each occasion.
“We’ve got to continue to battle the way we are,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. “It’s a grind out there. There’s not a lot of time and space.”
Brind’Amour refuses to view the situation as grim for his Central Division regular-season champions.
“We got to get one (game) first,” Brind’Amour said. “The narrative is going to be ‘Oh, you lost two at home.’ That’s not the picture I’m painting. I think we played damn good.”
Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who is a Vezina Trophy finalist for the fourth consecutive season (he won it in the 2018-19 season), has stopped 68 of 70 shots in the series. He has won 10 of his last 13 playoff starts.
“He’s world class,” Brind’Amour said. “He’s clearly dominant. You have to keep shooting pucks. … He’s another piece in their puzzle that makes them elite. You have to keep trying.”
Carolina hasn’t scored a 5-on-5 goal in the series, scoring on a Game 1 power play, and then late in Game 2 when they threw an extra attacker onto the ice in the final mpinute, trailing 2-0.
“I’d take that all day,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.
It has made Vasilevskiy the difference maker.
“It does make you sit an inch taller on the bench when you’ve got him back there,” Cooper said.
It did not matter that Carolina put more than twice the number of pucks on goal than Tampa Bay in Game 2 (32-15).
“I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of pretty passing-play goals in this series,” Stamkos said.
Carolina has managed to contain Tampa Bay’s vaunted power play, nixing two man-advantage situations in Game 2.
For the Hurricanes, it is a matter of believing as they did in 2006 when they lost the first two games of a first-round series at home to the Montreal Canadiens before rallying to move on and eventually win the Stanley Cup.
Tampa Bay has scored first in seven of its eight playoff games. In contrast, the Hurricanes have allowed the first goal in seven of its eight postseason games this year.
That first goal Tuesday night came from left winger Alex Killorn, who was in his 100th career playoff game. Tampa Bay has had a different player score each of its goals in the series.
The Hurricanes have concerns about center Vincent Trocheck, who appeared to have an injured leg and was unable to finish Game 2.
“Obviously, he couldn’t continue,” Brind’Amour said. “You know he would have come back and played if he could.”
–Field Level Media