Lightning push Hurricanes to brink after wild second period of Game 4
To start this series, we saw two 2-1 and one 3-2 contests. So, of course the Hurricanes and Lightning turned Game 4 into a dizzying shooting gallery.
More than once, it looked like Carolina would tie this Second Round series 2-2. Instead, the Lightning power play burned the Hurricanes, and Tampa’s top stars did the rest to win Game 4 by a score of 6-4. With that, the Lightning are up 3-1 in the series, and the Hurricanes are on the brink of elimination.
Tight to start and finish
Through the first period of Game 4, the Lightning were outplaying the Hurricanes, including taking a 1-0 lead on another Brayden Point tap-in goal. It seemed like we might see yet another tight, low-scoring contest in this series.
Uh ... nope.
Instead, the two teams sandwiched a zany second period between two fairly conventional ones in Game 4.
Wild second period in Game 4 of Lightning - Hurricanes
The Lightning and Hurricanes kept trading haymakers in the second period of Game 4, and credit Carolina for shaking off some serious body-blows. For a while, at least.
After struggling to solve Andrei Vasilevskiy for much of this series, both goalies face a barrage of chances. After a beautiful passing play by the Hurricanes’ top line, Teuvo Teravainen made it 1-1. Just 39 seconds later, Jesper Fast gave Carolina a 2-1 lead. It would also go fast.
Generally speaking, the Hurricanes kept pouring it on, but also arguably were guilty of self-inflicted wounds in giving the deadly Lightning power play too many chances.
To tie things up 2-2, Steven Stamkos connected on the PP. Dougie Hamilton’s finally starting to make an impact offensively, scoring a 3-2 goal. Then we saw a rare groaner allowed by Vasilevskiy, although Lady Byng finalist Jaccob Slavin deserves credit for a heck of a shot for the 4-2 tally.
You’d think that 4-2 lead would give Carolina a little clearance. Another nope.
[NBC 2021 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]
On another power play, Nikita Kucherov scored a PPG. Then Tyler Johnson scored an all-too-rare goal on a funky one Petr Mrazek would surely want back.
When Tampa Bay received another power-play opportunity late in the period, you half-expected that man advantage to spill over into the third. Yet another nope.
Stamkos scored on the power play again to give the Lightning a 5-4 lead. Starting with that Teravainen goal 4:30 into the second, the Lightning and Hurricanes combined for eight goals. Wow.
Discipline still a problem for Carolina?
Heading into Game 4, the Hurricanes topped the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs with 34 times shorthanded, three more than the Lightning. Through that second period, the Lightning went 3-for-6 on the power play, while the Hurricanes failed on their only opportunity.
You can certainly quibble with a call or two. But considering how hot Tampa Bay’s PP has been, that’s simply too much.
Especially with three penalties taken while Carolina was in the offensive zone.
Now, some of this is stylistic -- they’re a swarming team, and you don’t want them over-thinking. Both the Lightning and Hurricanes ranked among the NHL’s most penalized teams during the regular season.
But Rod Brind’Amour likely needs to mull over a way to find a healthier balance. Or, failing that, find solutions. Maybe the Lightning solved that “power kill?”
[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 Second Round schedule, TV info]
The Predators drew quite a few more power plays than the Hurricanes early on in that First Round series, and Carolina survived. Yet pulling off that balancing act vs. Tampa Bay could be deadly.
Here’s how the special teams battle looked in the first three games of this series.
Game 1: CAR: 1-for-5; TBL: 1-for-3
Game 2: Both teams 0-for-2
Game 3: CAR: 1-for-2 (Jordan Staal overtime-winner); TBL: 2-for-3
Overall, it wasn’t always night-and-day, though the red flags have been there. But Game 4 was where the Lightning power play struck, and struck often, against the Hurricanes.
Iced in the third
Can you really blame things for slowing down after that outrageous second period?
For the Canes, in particular, it had to be flattening to end up down a goal once again after everything that happened during that second period.
Sure, they made some mistakes. And you can’t deny that the Bolts are just that talented.
But the Hurricanes were finally solving Andrei Vasilevskiy in a real way. They even were up 4-2. To go from down 0-1 to start the second period, roar to up 4-2, then end up down 5-4 before that second intermission?
You can understand if there’s a stunned feeling.
When Nikita Kucherov scored again to make it 6-4, maybe it destroyed any last chance of a push.
To the brink
Carolina might feel like this series should at least be tied 2-2. Considering how close the first two games were, they might even wonder how the Lightning aren’t the ones facing elimination in Game 5.
In a sport with such a small margin for error, “What if?” questions linger. And now the ‘Canes must ask how they’re going to be able to win three straight against the defending champs.
LIGHTNING VS. HURRICANES (TB leads 3-1) - series livestream link
Game 1: Lightning 2, Hurricanes 1
Game 2: Lightning 2, Hurricanes 1
Game 3: Hurricanes 3, Lightning 2 (OT)
Game 4: Lightning 6, Hurricanes 4
Game 5: Tues. June 8: Lightning at Hurricanes TBD
*Game 6: Thurs. June 10: Hurricanes at Lightning TBD
*Game 7: Sat. June 12: Lightning at Hurricanes