NHL Hockey

Hurricanes hope to find holes, score on Lightning G Andrei Vasilevskiy

(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

The Carolina Hurricanes are looking for a way to crack Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy when the teams meet in Game 2 of their Central Division second-round series Tuesday night in Raleigh, N.C.

"If you're getting your chances, then eventually you'll get something. We know he's good," Carolina coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "Just keep pounding the rock. ... There's always ways to get better. We're going to have to find a way."

Vasilevskiy made 37 saves in Saturday's 2-1 victory to open the series.

Vasilevskiy, who has won nine of his last 12 playoff starts dating to last season, had a day off from practice Monday, but Lightning coach Jon Cooper categorized that as a maintenance day.

Both teams have used just one goalie for all of their playoff action this year. The Hurricanes have gone with Alex Nedeljkovic in his first NHL postseason.

The Lightning are counting on experience in the playoffs.

"This group over the past couple of years has really acquired that, and probably why we've had some success," Cooper said, referring to the ability to close out games.

The Hurricanes were the regular-season division champions, and Tampa Bay finished third. The teams split their eight games during the regular season, so a close series is anticipated.

"They pressure hard," Lightning center Brayden Point said. "They don't give you a lot of space."

Each shift seems to come under scrutiny.

Carolina lost for the first time in four postseason home games this year.

"It is that much more important, every play is a huge play," Hurricanes defenseman Brady Skjei said. "That's why we play. ... I think the mistakes get amplified that much more."

Lightning right winger Nikita Kucherov, with 11 points in the first round vs. the Florida Panthers resulting in a franchise record for a playoff series, added to his postseason total with an assist Saturday. That came on Point's power-play goal.

Lineup changes could be coming for the Hurricanes, who have surrendered the first goal in six of their seven playoff games.

"Those are discussions we have daily," Brind'Amour said. "It's a good possibility, for sure."

Still, Carolina is expected to stick with Nedeljkovic, who gave up a regrettable go-ahead goal to Barclay Goodrow in Game 1.

"He'll be just fine and right back to his ways," Skjei said.

Brind'Amour said team members continue to have great trust in Nedeljkovic.

"It's all about how you respond," the coach said.

The Hurricanes appear likely to be without winger Nino Niederreiter for the rest of the series. He missed Game 1 following a practice injury the day before and now is considered "doubtful," according to Brind'Amour, for the next week or so.

Forward Cedric Paquette, who was on Tampa Bay's Stanley Cup championship team last year, made his Hurricanes playoff debut in Game 1.

Games 3 and 4 will be later in the week in Tampa, Fla.

Tampa Bay is 6-6 in Game 1 road games in its playoff history. The Lightning are 8-3 all-time when playing in Game 2s on the road.

Cooper has been behind the bench for 100 playoff games as the Lightning's coach with a 59-41 record in those games.

Nearly 16,300 fans were on hand for the series opener after PNC Arena capacity was raised last week. Another crowd of similar size will be on hand for Game 2.

--Field Level Media

Updated June 1, 2021

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