The Carolina Hurricanes dropped Game 1 of the Second Round to the Tampa Bay Lightning by a score of 2-1, the Canes first loss at home this postseason.
"They're a good team … and we're a good team, too," said Jake Bean, who tallied his first career NHL postseason goal. "I think we have another level, and I think all the guys in the room know that. We knew this wasn't going to come without adversity."
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The actual difference in the game, the game-winning goal, was a tough-angle shot from Barclay Goodrow that slipped by Alex Nedeljkovic, a shot that seemed poised for the short-side corner and instead skittered along the ice and into the net.
It was tough, but it's not like the Canes were going to win a game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the defending champs by scoring just a single goal.
"It's tough for everybody. There's no use hiding it," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "OK, it happens. He made a lot of good saves tonight, too. That's part of it. We'll bounce back, and he'll bounce back. We've got to score more than one to win, anyway. We had our chances."
Video: "It's tough, tough for everyone."
The biggest difference-maker on the ice stood in the opposite crease: Andrei Vasilevskiy, who turned aside 37 of the 38 shots he faced en route to his fifth win in seven games this postseason. The Canes out-shot the Lightning in every period and out-chanced them 5-on-5 (according to Natural Stat Trick) in the third period, but Vasilevskiy was, for much of the game, seemingly impenetrable.
"He's the best in the league. Best in the world, let's put it that way. We knew that coming in," Brind'Amour said. "We've just got to make it harder and figure out ways to make it a little bit harder on him."
In what ultimately ended as a scoreless first period, Vasilevskiy helped the Lightning weather the Canes' storm, fueled by a current-capacity crowd of 16,299 at PNC Arena, and turned aside all four high-danger scoring chances he faced; he saw two more the rest of the game, according to Natural Stat Trick.
"He's the best goalie in the league. We've got to make it hard on him and get in front of him. You look at the goal we scored, and it was good net-front," Jordan Martinook said. "We had some good looks, but I think we can get there a little more and get in his eyes."
Plus: Scoring on the power play
The Canes' first power play unit was more dangerous than their second grouping for much of the team's five cracks on the man advantage, but it was the second unit coming through early in the third period to get the Canes on the board.
Jake Bean popped a one-timer from the point, a shot that had eyes through screens provided by Jordan Staal in the high slot and Jesper Fast at the top of the crease.
That traffic, as Martinook said, was the key to the Canes striking on the power play.
Video: TBL@CAR, Gm1: Bean one-times tying goal on power play
"He's got to be good. We need him to step up and take another step," Brind'Amour said of Bean. "Hopefully [the goal] propels him to be the player we think he can be."
Minus: Getting scored on by Tampa Bay's power play
There's really only one way to defend a power play as lethal as Tampa Bay's, and that's to be hyper-aggressive in hounding the puck carrier to limit time and space and forcing him to make a play. The Canes executed that game plan perfectly on the Lightning's first power play of the game - and then, seemingly out of nowhere, the puck was in the back of the net. For the Lightning, it was as simple as a Victor Hedman point shot and a Brayden Point redirection in the slot for a 1-0 lead 8:15 into the second period.
To the Canes' credit, they finished the game 2-for-3 on the penalty kill, the third man disadvantage being their best and most efficient of the evening.
The Big Picture
OK, everybody. Deep breath. This series has only begun, and there's plenty of hockey left to be played. Game 1 didn't go their way, but the Canes weren't vastly outdueled or overmatched. This is a resilient bunch, a battle-tested group that fought their way to the top of the Central Division. There's no doubt the Canes will push back with their best come Game 2.
Video: "We had some good looks."
"Nothing has come easy for this group, ever. Nothing is ever handed to them. Everything they've gotten they've earned," Brind'Amour said. "We're in the playoffs. We're going to have to go earn every inch of ice we get and every goal. This group has always bounced back. I don't expect anything different."
3: Bean became the third rookie defenseman in franchise history to score a goal in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, joining Brad Shaw (1989-90) and Grant Jennings (1989).
92: Cedric Paquette skated in his 92nd career Stanley Cup Playoff game and his first with the Canes. Paquette, who won the Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay in 2020, drew into the lineup when Nino Niederreiter was ruled out with an upper-body injury. Niederreiter is "very, very doubtful" moving forward in this series, Brind'Amour said.
No Context Image of the Night
Quote of the Night
"I felt like we played our game for the most part, but we can crank it up even more. We had stretches where it looked like how it needs to look, but I think there can be more stretches like that. It's just every guy giving one or two percent more." - Jordan Martinook
After the long weekend, the Canes and Lightning will do it all over again in Game 2 on Tuesday night.