By Leo Haggerty


As Yogi Berra once said, it’s “deja vu again” when it applies to the Bolts.  In the second round Central Division matchup between third-seed Tampa Bay and top-seed Carolina, the Lightning have opened up a 3-1 series lead.  Same results as the first series against Florida but a totally different dynamic as it applies to the style and structure of play of the Panthers and the Hurricanes.

Florida was content to give the Bolts time and space until Tampa Bay entered their offensive zone.  With the Canes, that scenario has flipped 180 degrees because Carolina pressures the puck everywhere even to the point of attacking the player with the puck on their penalty kill during a power play.  You can equate that game it to a full court press in basketball for the entire game.

Before you get to the recap of Games 1 through 4, I want to take a moment to explain the featured picture for this article.  On May 14th, my wife Barb and I became proud grandparents with the birth of Paige Melody O’Connell.  As the youngest Lightning fan, as you can see from her shirt, she had a chance to be introduced to Tampa Bay Coach Cooper last week.  In fact, I plan on putting this up with the caption Paige and Pop.  On the Couch.  Chattin’ with Coop and, if you’ve been following our LIGHTNING RECAP columns this year, you’ll understand the symbolism.

So, without further adieu, here’s what went down in the first quartet of games.  Enjoy

The visiting Bolts took the first game of the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs with a thrilling 2-1 triumph over the Canes in Raleigh at the PNC Arena.  If Game 1 was any indication of what’s to come, this will be a hard-fought series with the victor being just a single goal better than the vanquished.

After a scoreless opening 20 minutes, the Lightning were the first to crack the scoreboard at 8:15 of the middle period.  F Brayden Point (5) put the biscuit in the basket on the power play to give Tampa Bay a 1-0 advantage.

Carolina tied the score early in the third period.  D Jake Bean (1) slid the puck past Bolts G Andrei Vasilevskiy (37 saves on 38 shots) at 1:41 with the Hurricanes having the man advantage.

The Lightning recorded the game winner at 12:39 of the final period.  F Barclay Goodrow (1) put the biscuit in the basket behind Canes G Alex Nedeljkovic (28 saves on 30 shots) and Tampa Bay held on to go up 1-0 in a series that looks to be extremely entertaining from a fan perspective.

The Lightning defeated the Hurricanes by the same 2-1 score at the PNC Arena.  To be honest, Game 2 was an almost complete carbon copy of Game 1.

Like the previous encounter, neither team scored in the opening period.  Again, like Game 1, the Bolts scored first with F Alex Killorn (5) giving Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead at 7:09 of the middle period.

The Lightning deviated from the opening game script and increased their advantage at 8:06 of the third period.  F Anthony Cirelli (3) maneuvered the rubber disk past G Nedeljkovic (13 saves on 15 shots) to put the visitors up 2-nil.

Carolina finally dented the scoreboard with just 90 seconds left in regulation.  F Andrei Svechnikov (2) beat G Vasilevskiy (31 saves on 32 shots) but that was the only goal #88 would allow as the Lightning head back to Tampa with a 2-0 series lead

The Hurricanes continued the domination of the visiting teams in this series with a 3-2 overtime conquest of the Lightning at Amalie Arena.  That cut the Bolts series lead to 2-1.

After another scoreless first period for the third consecutive contest, both teams exploded for two goals each in the middle 20 minutes.  Carolina scored the first two markers of the period with D Brett Pesce (2) scoring the first at 5:15.  F Sabastian Aho (6) notched the second score when he slipped the puck past G Vasilevskiy (24 saves on 27 shots) at 7:40.

Tampa Bay tied the contest with two power play scores later in the second period.  Point (6) lit the lamp first at 8:57 and Killorn (6) knotted the score beating Canes G Petr Mrazek (35 saves on 37 shots) at 16:18.

Both net minders pitched shutouts in the third period sending the contest to overtime.  F Jordan Staal (5) secured the win for the Hurricanes with a power play marker at 5:57 giving Carolina its first win of the series.  .

In a game that was an outlier to the previous three, the Bolts outlasted the Canes 6-4 in an offensive slugfest at Amalie Arena.  That gave a home team their first win of the series and advanced Tampa Bay to a commanding 3-1 series advantage.

For the first time in the series, a team scored in the opening period and it was Lightning breaking the ice at 14:24.  Point (7) managed to slip the rubber disk past G Mrazek (20 saves on 26 shots) to give Tampa Bay an early 1-0 lead.

Then, as Coach Cooper stated, “the circus show” that was the second period began.  Eight goals in 20 minutes with four by each team.  What transpired was a total reversal of the tight-checking low-scoring periods that we’ve observed in the first three games.  The middle 20 minutes of Game 4 was an offensive onslaught and this is how it went down.

Carolina started the second period scoring by notching a couple of goals to take a 2-1 lead.  F Teuvo Teravainen (2) lit the lamp at 4:30 and F Jasper Fast (1) beat G Vasilevskiy (21 saves on 25 shots) just 39 seconds later.

The Bolts stopped the bleeding with a score of their own at 9:54.  F Steven Stamkos (4) converted a power play opportunity to knot the contest at 2-all.

The Hurricanes answered that goal with a pair of their own to go up 4-2.  The first came just 41 seconds after Tampa Bay drew even when D Dougie Hamilton (2) scored and that was followed by D Jaccob Slavin (1) at 12:41.

That’s when the Lightning offense went into high gear scoring the next three goals of the second period. Tampa Bay converted two power play opportunities sandwiched around and even-strength marker.  F Nikita Kucherov (4) scored the first goal with the man advantage to pull the Bolts to within striking distance at 4-3.  F Tyler Johnson (1) tied the score at 4-all at 17:10 and Stamkos (5) blistered a one-timer for the second power play goal that Mrazek had no chance of stopping with just 23 ticks lef before intermission.

Tampa Bay increased their advantage at 6:01 of the final period.  Kucherov (5) scored his second goal of the evening and that was enough to secure the victory.

The series now moves back to Raleigh with the Hurricanes on the brink of elimination.  Meet you around the TV Tuesday to see if the Canes can extend the series or if the Lightning can close it out and advance to the Stanley Cup semifinals.