For the second time in as many nights, the Carolina Hurricanes shut out the Tampa Bay Lightning, this time by a score of 2-0.
The Hurricanes got goals from Steven Lorentz and Clark Bishop, and Petr Mrazek and Alex Nedeljkovic teamed up for a 21-save shutout.
Here are five takeaways from Wednesday's preseason tilt in Raleigh.
1. "Night and Day"
Though the Hurricanes blanked the Lightning on consecutive nights to extend their exhibition winning streak versus Tampa Bay to four games, head coach Rod Brind'Amour was much less enthused about his team's effort tonight.
The Hurricanes dressed a more inexperienced squad in Tampa on Tuesday, in what Brind'Amour called one of the best preseason games in which he's been involved. The Canes followed it up with a veteran-heavy group on Wednesday, and a thick preseason malaise hung over much of the game.
"It's the first game. Sometimes you get that when you dress a really veteran group, so to speak," Brind'Amour said. "You're going to kind of have that. We'll work the kinks out."
Video: Brind'Amour: "We need contributions from everyone"
As Brind'Amour has reiterated, he's much more concerned with the process rather than the results in the preseason. The result in the second game good again - the Canes have a 7-0-1 record in exhibition games under Brind'Amour, in fact - but the process wasn't so much. The next time we see this Opening Night preview-type lineup may very well be the preseason finale against Washington, and I would expect the work ethic and compete to be dialed up then.
2. Another Combined Shutout
On Tuesday night in Tampa, James Reimer (eight saves) and Anton Forsberg (seven saves) pitched a combined shutout behind a stingy Hurricanes team.
On Wednesday, Petr Mrazek turned away just six shots in over 30 minutes of work, and Alex Nedeljkovic followed it up with 15 saves for the Canes' first back-to-back shutouts in preseason history (since relocation).
Video: Nedeljkovic: "You want to make it a hard decision"
"We love him," Brind'Amour said of Nedeljkovic. "He's done nothing but win. That's what it's all about at this level. He did his job."
3. Gauthier Steps Up
Julien Gauthier was the only player to dress in each of the Hurricanes' first two preseason games, and he put forth a monster effort on Wednesday. He tallied a primary assist, a shot on goal, two hits and a blocked shot in 13:25 of ice time, which included over two minutes on the power play.
Warren Foegele earned his spot with the big club with a stellar training camp last season. Can Gauthier be that guy this year?
"There is no day off, no shift off. I'm here to make the team," he said. "There is no playing around just for fun. I really want to make the team."
"His confidence is there," Brind'Amour said. "The strength is there. He's a bull out there, and he's got good hands around the net. He's not afraid to take it to the net. He's that power forward. If we can work on some other things to help him get to this level, that's obviously the goal."
Video: Julien Gauthier: "I'm here to make the team"
Gauthier used his beastly frame to his advantage, helping to create the Canes' first goal when he put his shoulder down and drove the net, where Steven Lorentz then potted the rebound.
"He's such a big, strong guy," Lorentz said. "I saw him take the puck wide like I saw him do 100 times in Charlotte last year. He made a great play just getting the puck to the net. Anytime you play with a guy who's a shooter like that, you know where to go. I was fortunate enough to get a good bounce and put the puck home."
4. Lorentz, Bishop Chip In
Steven Lorentz pumped his fist and was all smiles after getting the Hurricanes on the board in the second period. He finished the night a plus-2 with three shots, a hit and a blocked shot in nearly 10 minutes of ice time.
"I wasn't too sure if I was going to be able to get into a preseason game this year, but I think I've worked hard through camp. I had a pretty good summer. I feel like I earned my spot tonight, and I'm happy with the way I played," he said. "There's always room for improvement. That was my first game since June. There were a couple times I was shaking the rust off, but I felt good, and that's something to build on."
Video: Lorentz: "You learn a lot, on and off the ice"
The Canes selected Lorentz in the seventh round of the 2015 NHL Draft, and the Canadian forward has since grinded his way through juniors, the ECHL and the American Hockey League, where he captured the Calder Cup with the Checkers just three months ago.
"You learn how to win and you learn what it takes to win every single night. No games are given. Come playoff time, every team is equal," Lorentz said. "I learned a lot, so I'm just trying to take all my experience and bring it to camp this year."
Bishop, who played in 20 games with the Hurricanes last season, stretched his team's lead to two in the third period. He was the benefactor of a Lightning blunder in their own zone and was able to gather the puck in the slot, square up and fire a shot past Zach Fucale.
"The fourth line … they played all their shifts kind of the way it was supposed to be," Brind'Amour said. "That was nice to see.
5. Haula Leaves Game
Erik Haula played just 15 games for the Vegas Golden Knights in 2018 before a knee injury ended his season in early November. Tonight's exhibition match marked his return to game action, this time in a Hurricanes sweater. So, when Haula was conspicuously absent from the bench in the second period and didn't return in the third, there was some cause for concern.
But, good news. Brind'Amour said holding Haula out was precautionary - "We're not going to take any chances. … He felt something, kind of a twinge." - and, maybe most importantly, the lower-body concern is not knee-related.
"That's good," Brind'Amour said.
Following a pair of two-group practice days on Thursday and Friday, the Hurricanes head to Washington to face the Capitals on Saturday.