Cary, NC — Once again the Carolina Hurricanes ran into a brick wall, also known as Andrei Vasilevskiy, losing 2-1, for the second consecutive game, in a tightly contested match before another Covid sellout of 16,299 that sounded and looked like a full house of 18,680.
If you looked at the stats after each period and at the end of the game, you might have thought the Canes had the lead but both Vasilevskiy and Canes netminder, Alex Nedeljkovic played lights out and were clearly the best two players on the ice.
Talent vs. Talent = Great Hockey
The effort the Canes had in the first game was good enough to win that game, which Rod Brind’Amour even stated he thought the Canes were the better team. Hard to disagree if it wasn’t for the score. There was no real reason to change his game plan for this game and from the looks of things, that’s exactly what he did.
With the stacked offense on Tampa Bay, possession by the Canes would be part of that game plan so for the second game, Roddy had the Jordan Staal line start with Jordo doing his job, strong-arming the draw that allowed the Canes the first rush. Linemate Warren Foegele registered the first hit of the game on Ryan McDonagh just as the Bolts cleared the puck.
As the puck was scooting into the Canes’ end, both coaches put their first lines on the ice where Jaccob Slavin slowed the pace for a play to be set. Slavo passed over to Dougie Hamilton who reversed the play by passing back to Slavo for rimming the puck into the Bolts’ end. Teuvo Teravainen and Jan Rutta got to the puck at the same time, with Turbo coming away with the puck for a spin-o-rama shot that went wide.
The first period was fast, very fast. In fact, the whole game was fast which suited both teams. These are 2 highly skilled teams and a perfect match for watching great hockey. The Bolts have the advantage on offense and the Canes defense is as solid as it gets. Granted, Victor Hedman is a beast and an elite defenseman but overall, the Canes D is the best in the NHL.
When you have two high-powered teams with potent offenses going at it, forechecking will play a huge part in the game, and it did. It was nearly impossible to get 2 consecutive passes off let alone the rarity of 3. Just that little extra shoulder bump, check on the stick, slight push from the back or front was enough to keep both offenses from getting any plays set. The only thing noticeable in the first and, unfortunately, it was that way throughout the game, was the lack of net-front presence for the Canes.
Maybe it was the Hedman effect as he could push a bulldozer in mud, but the lack of Canes consistently in front of Vasilevskiy certainly helped make the world-class goalie’s job easier. The end of the first had the Canes get a slight edge in shots on net, 8 to 6 with all stopped by the goalies.
Lightning Strikes First
The Canes started the second with about 30 seconds left on an Alex Killorn penalty for holding Martin Necas late in the first. New ice and a well-rested powerplay team were just what Dr. Brind’Amour ordered but unfortunately, the Canes were disorganized mostly by the aggressive PK unit for the Bolts.
Even though the Canes were only able to get the puck in the Bolts’ end in the last few seconds of the powerplay, the intensity of the offense began to pick up. Checks were solid, passes were on the tape and shots that challenged Vasilevskiy were coming from every angle.
The Lightning struck first about a third of the way into the second. The Bolts were cycling behind the Canes net with Killorn grabbing the puck in the corner and going up along the far boards. Turbo was in chase, stretching his arms, and stick checking Killorn from 2 strides back. Killorn knew he had Turbo beat and carried the puck up high, going to the center. He saw Anthony Cirelli being effectively tied up by Slavo above the crease before sending a hard wrister along the ice going against the grain, probably hoping for a redirect.
Ned was up at the top side of the crease playing the angle of Killorn’s direction, but with the shot going on a negative angle coupled with the Slavo and Cirelli tied up in front, Ned only caught sight of the puck as it slid to his left into the net for the crucial first goal of the game. Very similar to Jake Bean’s goal the game before, if it wasn’t for the traffic in front, that goal doesn’t happen.
Sebastian Aho got called for slashing and Vincent Trocheck got called for tripping for the only two penalties of the period. The Bolts scored on an amazing 40% of their powerplays in the first round. Not going to the box was absolutely part of the Canes game plan but sometimes game plans just don’t go the way you want them to go.
Both were legitimate penalties but as the Caniacs would later raise cain about, sometimes not all trips are created equal or in hockey terms, are penalized equally. There was a time or two when a trip by a Bolt occurred, the refs couldn’t seem to find their whistles. Even with those two penalties, the Bolts were only able to get 5 shots on Ned for the period. Four of those were grade-A chances with Ned stopping 2 breakaways that would have been curtains for the Canes.
Cirelli Nets a Backhander for Bolts’ 2-0 Lead
I was fortunate to be at the game with CaryCitizen Editor Ashley Kairis and in between periods she asked, what do I think Rod is telling the team right now. My answer was he was saying to do what you’ve been doing. The Canes were having a good game, their forechecking was fantastic, they limited one of the most lethal offenses to just 11 shots in two periods. I’ll bet that hasn’t been done all season.
The only improvement or words of advice was to get more traffic in front of the Bolts’ net, do anything to get Vasilevskiy off his game or obstruct his line of sight. One other thing would be to shoot for the corners. Vasilevskiy is huge, 6’3” and 216 # and seems to be 5’ wide inside the 6’ wide net. There’s never been a goal scored going through the team crest in the middle of any goalie’s sweater. The Canes have a good number of snipers so aiming for the inside of the posts would be their best option, then crashing the net for a greasy goal.
At one time Andrei Svechnikov grabbed the puck along the backboards, went behind the net, and made a sharp negative angle turn that normal players wouldn’t even attempt as keeping the puck on the stick is nearly impossible—but Svech had perfect control. He rounded the corner then tried to stuff the puck in the net but Vasilevskiy had his skate along the post, stopping a great individual effort by Svech.
Just over the 8-minute mark after the Canes had a rush in the Bolts’ end, Hedman held the puck behind his net waiting for both teams to complete line changes. Hedman then comes around the net, makes a 100’ pass to Cirelli at the Canes blue line who was covered by Brady Skjei. The puck hit Cirelli’s stick and popped up to hit Skjei then, with both players quickly looking for the puck, Cirelli lucked out with the puck going his way and quickly dashed to the Canes net with Skjei on his heels.
Cirelli is quick and from about 12’ out, he went in front of the net, saw Ned coming out to cut down on the angle, and backhanded the puck against Ned’s momentum for a solid 2-0 lead with just under 12 minutes remaining. The Canes were solid on defense the rest of the game partly because the Bolts rarely sent two forwards deep, hardly ever sending all 3. That suited the Canes as it meant less time in their end and more in the Bolts end which is the only way they can score.
Svechnikov Nets Hard Goal
With about 1:45 left, Roddy pulled Ned for the extra skater, putting both muscle and skill on the ice. Turbo did an incredible job forechecking in the near corner to keep the puck alive, knocking it over to Fishy along the backboards. Fishy quickly passed to Jordo down-low, still along the boards. As Jordo got the pass, he kept his defender on his back and protected the puck as he gave a quick glance to Svech.
After seeing Svech with great position in the crease, Staal threaded a pass that Svech flipped up and over Vasilevskiy’s pads to get the Canes on the board with 90 seconds left.
On to Game 3 in Tampa
Another tough loss but no hanging of the heads. They’ll regroup and head into Tampa and do what they did during the season and win in Florida. Down 2-0 in the series is a hole but this Canes team is certainly capable of winning the next two games.
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