Andrei Svechnikov and the Carolina Hurricanes broke through against Andrei Vasilevskiy late, but the Tampa Bay Lightning again came away with a 2-1 win, putting the Canes in a 2-0 series hole.
"We played pretty hard. You're playing the best team in the world and going toe-to-toe. That's what it feels like, that's for sure. Certainly not getting overwhelmed," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "Just didn't get a break in two games. We're fighting trying to find that one, but we haven't been able to get it. I'm proud of the group. They're working so hard. We're doing everything we're trying to do. We just haven't got that little breakthrough yet."
HIGHLIGHTS | PHOTO GALLERY | STATISTICS
Andrei Vasilevskiy was named one of the three finalists for the Vezina trophy today, and he again showed why. The big Russian netminder made 31 saves on 32 shots in his third straight victory. He's turned aside 68 of 70 shots in this series (.971 save percentage), and dating back to his shutout in Game 6 of the First Round, he's made 97 saves on his last 99 shots faced (.980 save percentage).
"He's world-class," Brind'Amour said. "He's clearly dominant. You've got to keep shooting pucks. That's just it."
In an ideal world, the Canes put more pucks on him. In an ideal world, the Canes get more traffic in front of him. In an ideal world, the Canes get more bodies to the net, hunting for those second and third opportunities.
They did some of that tonight - and Svechnikov's goal scored with 90 seconds to play in regulation was a prime example of getting to those sweet spots and capitalizing - but for the second straight game, Canes weren't able to tally at 5-on-5.
"I think we're right there, but a lot of our shots were from the outside. They did a good job clogging it up and not giving us enough junk around the net," Jordan Staal said. "As forwards, including myself, we've got to get in front of this guy, get around the net and get more guys there when the puck is going there. They do a good job of clearing it after that first shot, but if we get more guys there, we're going to get a bounce, and the puck is going to start going in for us."
The Big Picture
The Canes find themselves down 2-0 against the defending Stanley Cup champions in a best-of-seven series that now shifts to Tampa for the next two games.
It's certainly not an impossibility to make this a series - the Canes are 2-6 all-time when trailing a best-of-seven postseason series 2-0 - but it has to start with a bounce and a win in hostile territory.
And, more than one goal in 60 minutes, which might have to happen without the offensive stylings of Vincent Trocheck, who was helped off to the room after a friendly-fire collision with Warren Foegele late in the second period. Trocheck returned for a shift in the third period until heading back to the locker room after a prolonged conversation on the bench with head athletic trainer Doug Bennett.
"We believe in our group. You look at those games, and they're tight," Staal said. "We're going to have to go in that building and basically play the same type of game they played here. Not giving much and just playing a good road game. We've got to find a way to get a win."
Plus: Andrei Svechnikov gets on the board
Svechnikov was quick to shrug off the impact his late goal might have for his confience - "[It means] nothing. We lost this game," he said - but the Canes needed their sharpshooter to find the back of the net, the first time he's done so since his empty-net tally in Game 1 of the First Round.
The scoring play was an exact illustration of how the Canes' offense thrives, too. In on the forecheck. Win a couple battles below the goal line. Then, Staal hits Svechnikov parked right on the doorstep for the quick-hitting tally.
Video: TBL@CAR, Gm2: Staal, Svechnikov connect for goal
Minus: Not scoring first and playing from behind
Playing from behind in the National Hockey League is tough. Playing from behind in the National Hockey League in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is even tougher. Playing from behind in the National Hockey League in the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the defending champions is about as tough as it gets.
Alex Killorn skated into the high slot, turned and fired a shot to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead a little more than seven minutes into the second period. It was the seventh time in eight playoff games that the Canes have been scored on first.
Allowing the first goal is far from a death sentence. After all, the Canes won three games in the First Round in which the Nashville Predators scored first. But, the odds certainly swing more in Canes' favor if they don't have to chase the game. Just look at the regular season. The Canes were 25-4-5 when scoring first and 11-8-3 when the opponent scored first.
And then there's playing with the lead. The Canes last had a lead 13 seconds into the third period in Game 4 of the First Round, and that lasted for three minutes and two seconds. They haven't had a lead since.
That script has to flip in Tampa for the Canes to have a shot at storming back in this series.
"It's believing in what we're doing as a group," Staal said. "I know I do. We've got better. We've got to be a lot better in certain situations … and we will be."
15: The Canes limited the Lightning to just 15 shots on goal, including just four in the final 20 minutes.
25: This marked the 50th game in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The home team has won 25 games, and the road team has won 25 games.
Quote of the Night
"We're not just going down there to win one. We want to win every game we play." - Rod Brind'Amour
The puck drops in Game 3 in Tampa at 8 p.m. on Thursday.