TAMPA, Fla. — The Hurricanes scored four second-period goals but it still wasn’t enough to top the Lightning, who reeled off four unanswered goals and converted half of their power play opportunities to overcome a two-goal deficit and win 6-4 in Game 4 of the teams’ second-round playoff series.
Tampa Bay now leads the series 3-1 and Carolina faces elimination in Tuesday’s Game 5 at PNC Arena. Teuvo Teravainen, Jesper Fast, Dougie Hamilton and Jaccob Slavin scored for the Hurricanes in the loss.
1. Carolina’s Game 4 fate was determined by two things: penalties and an ineffective penalty kill. The Lightning converted on three of their six man advantages, all scored in the wild second period that saw Carolina go from being up 4-2 only to trail 5-4 heading into the third.
“That’s just what they do,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said of the Lightning’s power play. “That’s the story. You can write anything else you want and talk about it. That was the story right there. Can’t take those penalties, and we did.”
The Lightning power play is now 6 of 14 (42.9%) in the series and 14 of 34 (41.2%) in the postseason.
“We got to be way, way more disciplined than we were today,” Fast said.
2. It was about the strangest start to an NHL game possible.
Before the opening puck drop, Blake Coleman and Warren Foegele exchanged shoves that led to the officials separating them. When they continued to jostle, both were called for unsportsmanlike conduct and sent to the box, leading to the game starting at 4-on-4 and both teams altering their starting lineups.
The Lightning then seemed to earn the game’s first power play when Carolina defenseman Brady Skjei high-sticked Nikita Kucherov. The penalty, however, was called by the linesman, and since the high stick was ruled to have not caused an injury, the linesman is not allowed to make the call, therefore no infraction was called.
To cap off the bizarre opening 20 minutes, one play was whistled dead after the puck disappeared into Jordan Staal’s pants.
3. If the first wasn’t wild enough for you, let me introduce you to the second period.
Twenty-one shots, eight goals, five penalties (including four to Carolina) and an in-arena announcer who couldn’t come close to keeping up with everything happening on the ice.
Teravainen and Fast scored goals 39 seconds apart to give the Hurricanes a 2-1 lead, but the Tampa Bay power play struck for the first of three times in the period when Steven Stamkos popped the puck into a vacant net at 9:54 of the middle frame.
Carolina then reeled off two more, this time from their defense when Hamilton floated a wrist shot through traffic for one and Slavin squeaked a bad-angle shot over the right shoulder of Andrei Vasilevskiy (21 saves) to establish a two-goal lead.
But the Lightning roared back with three goals — including two more on the power play — in the final 5:22 of the period to regain the lead and make it 5-4 after two periods.
It left the Hurricanes looking shell-shocked that their chance to even the series had seemingly evaporated from the heat of the Lightning’s power play.
“Hockey is a back-and-forth game,” Slavin said, “and especially when you’re playing that caliber of team you’re gonna have those ebbs and flows to the game. You score four in a period, you’re feeling good, and then and then the momentum kind of swings, and you can’t let that happen.”
Number To Know
19 — Times in Vasilevskiy’s NHL career he had allowed four or more goals on 25 or fewer shots. He was 2-13-1 in the regular season and 0-3 in the postseason when having such a game until the Lightning rallied to win Saturday.
“I think that was an opportunity where maybe he wasn’t as sharp,” Brind’Amour said of the Hurricanes’ failing to capitalize on Vasilevskiy’s below-average performance. ”We scored four on him. We probably needed to win that game.”
Petr Mrazek (20 saves), meanwhile, looked like he was going to put on another spectacular performance early in the game. But as the Hurricanes unraveled with a lack of discipline and porous penalty kill, so too did Mrazek.
It leaves Brind’Amour with another tough goalie decision. The coach could go back to Alex Nedeljkovic, who lost Games 1 & 2 but only allowed four total goals. Or he could stick with Mrazek and hope his performance from his first four-plus periods of the series returns rather than the goalie who gave up four goals in nine shots in a 9:43 stretch of the second period.
“I don’t know,” Brind’Amour said of his impending choice. “We’ll look at it and make a decision on that day we play or the day before, whatever. Yeah, he was good early because we weren’t at our best at the start.”
They Said It
“One hundred percent. Like I said, I fully believe that if we play our way and stay out of the box, we’re gonna turn this series around.”
— Hurricanes forward Jesper Fast on if the Hurricanes can beat the defending Stanley Cup champions in three straight games
Jaccob Slavin, Hurricanes defenseman — Don’t pin the struggles of the Hurricanes’ penalty kill on Slavin. Carolina’s top defender played 3:18 shorthanded and wasn’t on the ice for any of the Lightning’s three power play tallies. Slavin also found the smallest of spaces to score his goal over Vasilevskiy’s shoulder and added an assist on Fast’s goal in the second in the loss.
Andrei Svechnikov, Hurricanes forward — We could talk all day about the officiating, which left something to be desired. But one player taking three minor penalties against the Lightning is not the recipe for success. Svechnikov’s third penalty, a rough to Tampa Bay’s Yanni Gourde, was a particularly unnecessary infraction and led to Stamkos’ game-winner with 23 seconds left in the second period.
Svechnikov did earn two secondary assists and has factored in on five of the Hurricanes’ nine goals in the series, but the Hurricanes need him to stay out of the box.