RALEIGH — The Hurricanes dropped a second straight 2-1 decision to the Lightning at PNC Arena, falling into a 2-0 hole in the best-of-seven second-round series. Andrei Svechnikov scored the lone goal for Carolina.
The series now shifts to Tampa Bay for Games 3 and 4 on Thursday and Saturday, respectively.
1. The Carolina Hurricanes are down 2-0 in the series after dropping consecutive home games to the Tampa Bay Lightning, leading optimists to conjure the memory of the 2006 team that lost the first two games in Raleigh to the Canadiens before reeling off four straight and eventually winning the Stanley Cup.
In reality, it feels more like the 2019 Eastern Conference Final series against the Bruins. In that series, Carolina lost the two opening games on the road before bowing out in a four-game sweep. Those losses in Boston weren’t close — 5-2 and 6-2 — but the way the Lightning have stripped the identity from the Hurricanes through two games is similar to what the Bruins were able to do two years ago.
It has Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour hoping luck will swing Carolina’s way — not an outrageous wish given that his team outshot Tampa Bay 70-45 in the first two games but managed to lose both in 2-1 decisions.
“(We) played pretty hard, and, again, we’re playing the best team in the world and going toe-to-toe,” Brind’Amour said. “That’s what it feels like, for sure. Certainly not getting overwhelmed, just didn’t get a break. Past two games we were just fighting trying to find that one. Haven’t been able to get it.”
Carolina can point to the numbers and claim they’re victims of a string of bad luck or even misfortune, but it’s going to take more than favorable bounces to win four of six from the defending champions
2. Another interesting epilogue to Tuesday’s game was multiple Hurricanes players talking not of the next game but rather winning two in Tampa Bay.
“We lost this game,” Svechnikov, Carolina’s lone goal scorer Tuesday, said. “We’ve gotta focus on the next game, and we all know it’s 2-0, but for our team, it’s never give up. We’re going to try and win the next two games.”
Captain Jordan Staal echoed Svechnikov, saying the team needed to come back to Raleigh after Game 4 on Saturday tied with the Lightning.
Brind’Amour has been adamant throughout his tenure as coach that his team doesn’t look beyond its next day’s work, but two of his top players couldn’t help making longer-term goals.
“We’ve gotta get one, but these guys know we aren’t just going down there to win one,” Brind’Amour said. “We want to win every game we play. Yeah, we’ve gotta get one first. It’s obviously going to be tough. It was tough here. The narrative is going to be, ‘Oh you lost two at home,’ but that’s not the picture that I’m painting.
“I think we played damn good, worked extremely hard, were right there, and they got a couple of breaks that went their way. They worked for them, they’re a great team, but I’m proud of our group, how hard they’re working and sticking to what we do. I feel like we’re right there.”
3. The hill got steeper to climb for the Hurricanes when Vincent Trocheck collided with Warren Foegele late in the second period and hopped to the bench and down the tunnel to the locker room. Already without Nino Niederreiter, the Hurricanes now face being without a second top-nine forward.
“It doesn’t look good,” said Brind’Amour, who added he should know more on Wednesday. “I don’t know exactly the extent of it at this point, but he obviously couldn’t continue. That’s never good. You know he would play if he could. That’s another challenge that we’re gonna have to overcome.”
If Trocheck joins Niederreiter in the press box for Game 3, the Hurricanes will likely look to Morgan Geekie to fill the void and play his first postseason games this year. Geekie managed just one assist in eight games during last year’s bubble playoffs, registering four shots on goal — hardly instant offense.
But Geekie has shown a knack for getting hot. He had two multipoint games this season, including a two-goal game March 11 against Nashville. Both those goals were scored on the power play, another place where Carolina could use a boost with two normal contributors potentially out of the lineup.
The best-case scenario for the Hurricanes is for Trocheck’s situation to not be as dire as it appeared. If it is as Brind’Amour fears, Carolina will have another hurdle to leap over in the series.
Number To Know
0 — Goals at 5-on-5 in the series for the Hurricanes, whose loan goal Tuesday came with Alex Nedeljkovic on the bench for an extra attacker with Carolina down two goals in the third period. The Hurricanes’ only goal in Game 1 was a power play goal by defenseman Jake Bean.
They Said It
“If you had said to me that we were going to give up 15 and 20 shots to the Tampa Bay Lightning, I’d probably say, ‘Really? That’s pretty good.’ There’s a lot of positives here, but, unfortunately, we’re down 2-0. That’s the negative. We’ll take it one game at a time here and see where it goes.”
— Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour
Andrei Svechnikov, Hurricanes forward — The Carolina winger got his second goal of the postseason — and first with a goalie in the net — with 90 seconds left in the game. Svechnikov got to the front of the net and banged in a Staal pass to finally put a dent in Andrei Vasilevskiy (31 saves). Svechnikov finished with a game-high six shots on goal and now has 34 this postseason.
Brady Skjei, Hurricanes defenseman — The kind of bounce the Hurricanes have been looking for went to the Lightning in Game 2. A flip into the Carolina zone ended up in Skjei’s feet and then directly onto Anthony Cirelli’s stick. The dancing puck left Skjei a step behind, and Cirelli’s backhand beat Nedeljkovic (13 saves) and proved to be the winning goal.