NHL Tuesday NBC Sports Network Preview: Tampa Bay Lightning at the Carolina Hurricanes.
Tampa Bay looks to take a 2-0 lead in the Central Division finals series after defeating Carolina by a 2-1 score in the opener on Sunday. The puck drops on the NBC Sports Network at 7:38 PM ET.
Brayden Point began the scoring in the second period when he scored on a power play at the 8:15 minute mark to give the Lightning the lead. Jake Bean evened the score 1:41 minutes into the third period on a power play for the Hurricanes. Barclay Goodrow scored the eventual game-winner for Tampa Bay just under 11 minutes later at the 12:39 mark.
Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 37 of the 38 shots he faced to frustrate Carolina on their home ice. The Vezina Trophy finalist has a 5-2 record this postseason with a 2.41 goals-against-average and a .936 save percentage.
Alex Nedeljkovic made 28 saves, but he drew scrutiny for the soft goal he allowed in the third period on the Goodrow effort. The rookie is 4-3 in the playoffs, with a 2.19 goals-against-average and a .923 save percentage. Head coach Rod Brind’Amour gave him the nod as the team’s starting goaltender over veterans Petr Mrazek and James Reimer after his regular season, posting a 15-5-3 record and a 1.90 goals-against-average and a .932 save percentage in 23 games.
The Lightning advanced to the Central Division finals after defeating Florida in the opening round in six games. Tampa Bay is converting on 39.1% of their power plays this postseason after scoring one of their three chances in Game 1. The Lightning converted on eight of their 20 power-play chances against the Panthers.
Tampa Bay has been energized by the return of forward Nikita Kucherov, who missed the entire regular season due to a hip injury. He leads the team with 12 points in the postseason coming from three goals and nine assists. Defenseman Victor Hedman has added nine assists. Alex Killorn and Steven Stamkos have both contributed eight points.
The Hurricanes earned the top seed in the Central Division with 80 points, the third-highest amount in the NHL during the regular season. They needed seven games to get past Nashville in the first round of the playoffs. After posting the second-best power-play unit in the regular season with a conversion rate of 25.6%, Carolina was successful in 20.2% of their opportunities with the man advantage against the Predators. The Hurricanes converted once on the four power-play chances they had on Sunday.
Sebastian Aho leads the team in the playoffs with five goals and seven points. Martin Necas has two goals and three assists. Eric Staal has added four goals and an assist.
Carolina right-wing Nino Niederreiter is dealing with an upper-body injury that Brind’Amour has said makes him “very, very doubtful” to play in this series. Niederreiter scored 20 goals during the regular season on the Hurricanes’ second line. Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak left Game 1 midway during the second period after getting sandwiched by two Hurricane players. He is listed as questionable but expected to play. Fellow defenseman David Savard, a midseason pickup from Columbus, is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
These two teams split their eight regular-season meetings. BookMaker lists Carolina as a -113 money line favorite, with the total set at 5.5.
Computer prediction: Carolina Hurricanes 4 Tampa Bay Lightning 3