RALEIGH — The Carolina Hurricanes’ season came to an end Tuesday at PNC Arena when the Tampa Bay Lightning won the second-round series between the teams with a 2-0 win in Game 5.
1. As it was throughout the series, the Lightning power play was the difference in the game. Just like in Game 1 of the series, Brayden Point broke a 0-0 tie in the second period with a goal on the man advantage to give Tampa Bay the game’s first goal. It was the one goal they’d need to close out the series.
“It’s such a small margin. Games could go either way,” Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho said of the difference in the series. “But if I had to say one (thing), it’s got to be the special teams. Today, they got a power play goal, and that’s the game-winning goal. We didn’t get any. That’s the game. The guys who play on the power play and penalty kill, it needs to be better. … I’m one of those guys who plays a lot of special teams. I’ve got to be better.”
2. Two words: Andrei Vasilevskiy.
The Lightning goalie is the best on the planet, and he answered any doubts some might have had after his shaky Game 4 performance with a dominant one in Game 5.
The past two seasons following elimination by the Bruins, Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour was quick to heap praise on Zdeno Chara and talk about the admiration he had for the ageless defenseman. On Tuesday, it was Vasilevskiy that the Carolina coach gushed over.
“I’ve seen a lot of goalies that were good, but he’s as good as anyone that I’ve ever seen,” Brind’Amour said. “I go back to Dominik Hasek and how he affects the team the way they can play. He makes it look easy. Dominik Hasek made it look hard. We had a lot of great looks tonight, and they looked like nothing because he was in the right place.”
3. Changes are coming to the Carolina roster. We’ll certainly dig deeper on this in the coming weeks and months, but the Hurricanes will likely undergo a significant facelift on their defense — Dougie Hamilton, an unrestricted free agent, is likely to get a monster payday on the open market that he won’t get in Raleigh — and the team’s depth forwards will likely be overhauled.
“We’ve got to get better, your depth,” Brind’Amour said. “There’s always a weakest link that you can’t have. We’ve got to figure out what that is and get better at it. We definitely have some great pieces here both talent-wise and character-wise. We’ve got to make sure we keep those intact, and if there’s areas we’ve got to get better, which obviously we do, we’ve got to figure out a way to do that. So that’s what we’ve got to do moving forward.”
Number To Know
2 — Goals by the Hurricanes in three home games against the Lightning. Carolina was able to slow the Lightning attack in the trio of games at PNC Arena, but the Hurricanes didn’t score more than once in any game on home ice in the series.
They Said It
“You always learn from losing. You just do. You better. This one feels a little different than the other ones because we have been around a little more. But what do you learn? Like I said earlier, you learn that we have to be that much better. And you need 20 guys. You really need to have everybody at the top of their game to beat the best team. That’s why it’s so hard to beat the best team, and that’s why it’s the greatest trophy. So much has to go into it, and everyone’s got to get a little bit better.”
— Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour
Alex Nedeljkovic, Hurricanes goaltender — You can’t ask much more of Nedeljkovic, who did everything he could to keep Carolina within striking distance in his three starts against the Lightning but got just two total goals of support from his teammates.
“You’re proud of that kid because he’s been with us a long time, paid his dues and put in the time,” Brind’Amour said. “It’s nice to see that that paid off for him. Hopefully he’ll be a big part of us moving forward.”
The Hurricanes didn’t find a way to get past the Lightning, but they seem to have found their No. 1 goalie.
Jake Bean, Hurricanes defenseman — When the chips were down in an elimination game, the Hurricanes didn’t count on Bean. The rookie defenseman was pushed around in his few shifts in the first period and was used sparingly throughout the night despite the fact Carolina was in desperate need of offense — Bean’s bread and butter.
He played just 6:41 on Tuesday and finished the postseason with just one point — his Game 1 goal against the Lightning — in 11 games. Bean will be among those considered by the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft, and the chances that the Hurricanes would protect Bean from being selected diminished greatly after his playoffs.