Lightning Moving On To Semis

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In the end, the Carolina Hurricanes couldn’t stand in the way of the Tampa Bay Lightning. They certainly made it interesting, keeping the Lightning within two goals in every game of the second round series, but ultimately the Hurricanes fell in five games.

Carolina had a fantastic season and a strong young core. That’s not much of a consolation right now, but there is reason for optimism for next season. They have some key RFAs to re-sign including Alex Nedeljkovic, Warren Foegele, and Andrei Svechnikov, and there’s the question of Dougie Hamilton, who has the option to test the UFA market, but Carolina also has a fair amount of cap flexibility to work with, so even if there are question marks, there is likely a favorable path forward for Carolina.

The Lightning have a much tougher road ahead from a cap perspective. The only reason Tampa Bay could ice the team that beat Carolina is because Nikita Kucherov was forced to miss the full regular season due to an injury. While that was not what the Lightning wanted, it did allow them to put him on the long-term injured reserve list for the full season and avoid making any painful sacrifices in the name of becoming cap compliant. There is no cap for the playoffs, so a now healthy Kucherov has been able to aide in the Lightning’s journey to the semifinals by scoring five goals and a league-leading 18 points in 11 games.

Tampa Bay currently is projected to exceed the 2021-22 cap by a little over $5 million before even with just a 19-player roster, so the Lightning have some serious work to do during the summer. That work can be pushed off a little longer though. After beating the Hurricanes, this existing core will go on to face the winner of the Islanders-Bruins series as their attempt to win back-to-back championships continues.

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TAMPA BAY 2 CAROLINA 0 (Lightning win series 4-1)

Andrei Vasilevskiy led the Lightning to victory by stopping the 29 shots he faced. He’s going into the semifinals with an 8-3 record, 2.24 GAA, and .934 save percentage in 11 playoff starts.

At the other end of the ice, the Hurricanes went back to Alex Nedeljkovic, who stopped 23 of 25 shots. That’s the third time in this series that Nedeljkovic held the competition to a pair of goals but lost the game. While Carolina’s goaltending changes during the second round made that something of a focus, the Hurricanes’ primary problem was offensive.

Andrei Svechnikov was one of the few Hurricanes forwards who generated much in the second round, scoring a goal and five points over the first four games. He couldn’t solve Vasilevskiy on Tuesday though and was held to just two shots.

Brayden Point scored a power-play goal at 4:06 of the second period, which proved to be the game winner. It was Point’s eighth goal and 12th point in 11 playoff contests.

Ross Colton accounted for the Lightning’s other goal. He has three goals and four points in 11 playoff games.

VEGAS 3 COLORADO 2 (OT) (Golden Knights lead series 3-2)

This game was a microcosm of the series thus far. Brandon Saad provided the Avalanche with an early lead in the dying seconds of the first period. Joonas Donskoi scored late in the second period to increase Colorado’s edge to 2-0.

Vegas came back in the third though with a pair of goals from Alex Tuch and Jonathan Marchessault. In Marchessault’s case he’s now up to six goals and eight points in 12 postseason contests.

Mark Stone scored just 50 seconds into overtime to complete the comeback. He’s up to five goals and eight points in 12 playoff games.

Marc-Andre Fleury played a big role in making this comeback possible by saving 28 of 30 shots. He improved to 7-4 with a 1.81 GAA and .925 save percentage in 11 playoff games.

Philipp Grubauer turned aside 22 of 25 Golden Knights shots. He’s been excellent in the playoffs too, but Vegas seems to have figured him out lately. He’s allowed 11 goals over his last three games.