RALEIGH, NC — Andrei Vasilevskiy returned to his best with Tampa Bay Lightning in position to close the playoffs.
Two goals were thrown at the right time from Brayden Point and Ross Colton, and the reigning Stanley Cup champions were on the verge of playing for another title.
Vasilevskiy posted his third straight shutdown in successive victories, helping Lightning beat the Carolina Hurricanes 2-0 on Tuesday night to win a series two of five games.
Point’s powerful play-goal following a big save from Vasilevskiy put Tampa Bay up in the second period, then Colton fired in the third. That was more than enough for Vasilevskiy, who finished with 29 saves and halted the hurricane that made the Hurricanes home for the third time in a series of games at the PNC Arena.
Tampa Bay is now on the road 5-1in the playoffs. Including a 2-0 series lead in the first round against Florida. It then made all three claims in the series.
And the Lightning is now 8-3 overall this season. By sending two teams that finished above them in the middle division: first place at Carolina. and the second-placed Florida Panthers were champions in Round 1 in six games.
Indeed, the team that lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round of 2019 in the overall seed position have won six consecutive series since late last season.
“We have a lot of confidence in our group,” Point said. “I think we have a pretty good regular season that we can build on … yes, it’s just belief in our group. We have four rows and all D and great goals scored, we just feel confident.”
It started with Vasilevskiy, a former Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL’s top goalkeeper and a finalist this year. He has only conceded two goals in 70 appearances in his first two games to open the series.
Then, after an intense Game 4 in Florida where each team scored four goals in the second period, Vasilevsky turned his back on every shot. Among his saves on Tuesday It was a big stop on the gloves for Vincent Trocheck of Carolina in a short 2-on-1 stroke.
Point’s goal came moments later with a magnificent effort. He feeds from Alex Killorn towards the backhand near the crease. Went to the forehand before returning to the backhand to chase Carolina netminder Alex Nedeljkovic off balance enough to score at 4:06 of the second.
Lightning’s coach, Jon Cooper, said of the sequence: “Both of them are two big players who have made big results.
Lightning was nearly pushed into a 2-0 lead by Captain Steven. Stamgos scores from the bell. But the review indicated that the puck did not cross the goal line in time. But Colton scored at 9:04 in a 2-0 lead.
Hurricanes can’t do the same.
“He made a big save. Saved in a timely manner,” Carolina captain Jordan Stal said of Wasilewski. “Good goalkeepers do that. He did a really good job not to let us gain momentum and draw the crowd.”
Next up for the Tampa Bay in the NHL semifinals is the winner of the series between the New York Islanders and the Boston Bruins. The Islanders led a best-of-seven series 3-2 and could close on Wednesday at home.
The Lightning defeated both teams last year in the playoffs on their way to the title.
It was a disappointing finish for the Hurricane, who are in the playoffs for their third straight season after a nine-season drought. They have won the Central Division title for their first division crown since winning the Cup in 2006 and are in the Presidents’ Trophy until the final week of the season.
Carolina, who has a deep defensive line and youth ahead. appears to be in a position to fight for the title. but continued to struggle through the season Last year, the Hurricane lost to the Bruins in the first round.
“There’s the next step we have to figure out,” coach Carolina Rod Brind’Amour said. “So that’s the rest.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.