TAMPA - Jordan Staal tallied a power-play goal in overtime to help the Carolina Hurricanes to a gutsy 3-2 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 3 of the Second Round.
Brett Pesce and Sebastian Aho also scored for the Canes, and Petr Mrazek made 35 saves in his 2021 postseason debut.
"I'm always proud of the group," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "Whatever happens to them, they just seem to find a way to focus on the game and go do their job. That's kind of what happened tonight."
HIGHLIGHTS | PHOTO GALLERY | STATISTICS
Special teams is so often the difference in a game, and both the Canes' penalty kill and power play bounced back in game-changing ways late in regulation and early in overtime.
The Canes did a commendable job containing the Lightning's lethal power play in the first two games of the series, but it struck twice in the latter half of the second period to erase the Canes' 2-0 advantage. It was first Brayden Point finishing off a tic-tac-toe sequence from Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov. About eight minutes later, Kucherov fetched his own rebound and fed Alex Killorn in the slot for the one-timer, as the Lightning converted on their second straight power play to tie the game before the intermission.
The Canes' penalty kill bounced back when they needed to most, though. Dougie Hamilton was whistled for tripping with just 68 seconds left in regulation. The Canes held on to force overtime and then dispatched the remaining time on a clean sheet at the start of overtime, as Brady Skjei came up with a big block and Petr Mrazek made a couple of critical saves.
"If you look at the personnel on their power play, it's a tough challenge for us," Brett Pesce said. "We just have to do our best to take away their time and space."
Then, the Canes got an overtime power play opportunity of their own, and after a lackluster first power play that failed to generate a shot on goal, the man advantage was the difference maker. Teuvo Teravainen held onto the puck along the left side wall and fed Sebastian Aho, who backed into the slot to create a shooting lane. Aho's shot caromed off Jordan Staal and into the net, delivering the Canes their first win of the series.
Video: CAR@TBL, Gm3: Staal tips in PPG for overtime winner
"Big man at the hoop," Aho said. "That's what you need."
Special teams were special when they needed to be.
"We were pretty confident. We knew we had to kill the penalty early on and then just take over," Aho said. "Eventually those penalties usually even out. We were able to score a goal on our power play, which is always huge. We felt pretty confident we could kill that penalty, do our job and start playing our game."
Aho finished the night with three points (1g, 2a), his fourth career three-point game in the postseason. He scored his sixth goal of the playoffs to double the Canes' advantage not even eight minutes into the second period.
Jaccob Slavin fired a stretch pass up the ice, and Teuvo Teravainen changed the direction of the puck with a deft touch. That spurred Aho on a breakaway, and he slipped his shot through Vasilevskiy's five-hole.
Video: CAR@TBL, Gm3: Aho finishes Hurricanes' nifty set-up
"He wants to get better, and he's super competitive. He wants to win so bad," Brind'Amour said. "That's what you're seeing for me: that competitive edge. It doesn't matter who he's playing against. He wants to be the best."
For just the second time in nine postseason contests, the Canes scored the first goal of the game.
The scoring sequence initially developed as a 2-on-1 rush for the Canes, but Victor Hedman played tight on Andrei Svechnikov, who smartly slowed up and shielded the puck from the big defender. Svechnikov then dropped off a pass to Pesce, who stepped into a shot and picked a corner on Vasilevskiy to give the Canes their first lead since early in the third period of Game 4 in the First Round.
Video: CAR@TBL, Gm3: Pesce elevates one-timer by Vasilevskiy
Pesce escaped an injury scare in the first period, as well. Kucherov blindsided Pesce in the neutral zone, a play that was penalized, and the Canes' defenseman had to be evaluated for a possible concussion in the first intermission.
"I thought it was maybe a little dirty, but it's playoff hockey," Pesce said. "There was probably a little more physicality to the game."
Plus: Petr Mrazek
It had been since May 10 that Mrazek last started in net for the Canes, who rolled with Calder Trophy finalist Alex Nedeljkovic through the first eight games of the postseason. But, down 2-0 heading on the road and facing the defending Stanley Cup champions? Why not mix it up?
"Ned has been great. That's not really the issue," Brind'Amour explained on Thursday morning. "He's played a lot of games, and we're going to need everyone as fresh as possible to get a victory. We'll change it up a little bit."
Mrazek responded with a sharp outing on the road, exactly what the Canes needed in order to get back in the series.
"It's all about preparation," he said. "I was just trying to be ready as much as possible."
Video: "I felt pretty good. It's all about preparation."
Mrazek made 24 saves on 24 shots at 5-on-5 in regulation and made three saves with the Canes a man down in the third period and overtime.
"He made some huge saves tonight," Aho said. "You bank on your goalie. I had no doubt in my mind that he was going to be good tonight. He was himself out there. He made huge saves and gave us a chance to win a hockey game."
Minus: Warren Foegele injured
The Canes went into Game 3 already missing Nino Niederreiter, whose upper-body injury is likely to keep him out for the remainder of the series, and Vincent Trocheck, who suffered a lower-body injury late in the second period of Game 2. All they needed was another forward to go down with an injury right? Warren Foegele departed the game late in the second period and returned for a shift in the third before being ruled out for the remainder of the contest with an upper-body injury.
Video: "I'm always proud of the group."
"I'm not sure how that's going to shake out," Brind'Amour said. "We'll hopefully know more tomorrow."
9: Aho recorded his ninth career multi-point postseason game, tying Ron Francise for the most in franchise history.
3: Staal netted his third career overtime postseason goal, matching Niclas Wallin for the most in franchise history.
2-0: The Canes are 2-0 when scoring first in this postseason and 3-4 when surrendering the first goal.
Quote of the Night
"I'm just so proud of everyone on our team. We get punched in the face over and over. … We just stick with it. Kudos to our team and Roddy for keep on relaying that message. We just kept at it, and the power play came up big for us." - Brett Pesce
The Canes have the opportunity to even up this series when the puck drops in Game 4 at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
The Carolina Hurricanes 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs are powered by DieHard. DieHard batteries are available at Advance Auto Parts and participating Carquest locations nationwide.