The Lightning entered Game 5 the only team in the NHL perfect when leading after two periods.
That was bad news for the Hurricanes already, as the Lightning led 1-0 heading into the third. It was even worse they had to deal with Andrei Vasilevskiy again.
The Lightning goalie made 29 saves in Raleigh en route to a shutout and a 2-0 win for Tampa Bay to advance to the Stanley Cup Semifinals. Against the higher-seeded Hurricanes, the Lightning barely faced a blip on the radar all series.
There was the Game 3 overtime loss to Sebastian Aho’s goal, but aside from that, the Lightning were near perfect, building off their First Round-series win over the Panthers.
Now, the defending Stanley Cup champions are one step closer to to repeating their title. They’ll just have to get through one of the Bruins or Islanders.
Carolina was as good of a test as any they will face, though; the Hurricanes finished as the top seed in the Central, but as anyone following the series knows, this was a different Lightning team than the one from the regular season.
It looked like the Lightning expanded their lead right as the buzzer sounded on the second period, but it was called no goal.
That wasn’t good enough for Carolina; the Lightning were still ahead after three, and like previously mentioned, they have not lost in that situation all season.
Ross Colton doubled the Tampa Bay lead with an insurance goal 10:56 left in the third. His near-pump fake froze Hurricanes goalie Alex Nedeljkovic to make it 2-0. Colton’s fourth line with Tyler Johnson and Pat Maroon made life difficult for the Hurricanes all night, grinding them down.
Defenseman Mikhail Sergachev led a 22- blocked shot effort for the Lightning. Even late in the game as the Hurricanes pressed Vasilevskiy with the goalie pulled by the 2:45 mark, the Lightning defense was smothering.
Right before the Hurricanes pulled Nedeljkovic, Ondrej Palat took a hit-to-the-head penalty with an elbow up high to end Hurricanes defenseman Brett Pesce‘s night. Pesce had to enter concussion protocol during the final moments.
Carolina goes down in another would-have-been season. The Hurricanes made strides once again, and were a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. The Lightning, though, turned it on for these playoffs, and have looked close to unbeatable most times out.
The Lightning have earned their spot. The Panthers and Hurricanes finished higher in the standings, and bettered them in the regular season matchups. Again, this is a different Lightning team with Nikita Kucherov back and Steven Stamkos healthy, but it’s also a team that has Stanley Cup experience.
The Hurricanes played well, even on Tuesday night, testing Vasilevskiy with 29 shots. The recently-named Vezina finalist allowed just nine goals all series, with four of them coming in the 6-4 Game 4 victory.
With Carolina’s defeat, the Avalanche are the last first-place team standing. On Tuesday, though, all that mattered was the Lightning are going to face either the Bruins, or Islanders and the Hurricanes are going home again.
LIGHTNING VS. HURRICANES (TB wins series 4-1)