• 68°

Hurricanes eliminated; reigning Stanley Cup champs set sights on repeat

By Aaron Beard

AP Sports Writer

RALEIGH (AP) — Andrei Vasilevskiy was at his best again with the Tampa Bay Lightning in position to close out a playoff series.

Throw in a couple of timely goals from Brayden Point and Ross Colton, and the reigning Stanley Cup champions are a step closer to playing for another title.

Vasilevskiy posted his third straight shutout in a series-clinching victory, helping the Lightning beat the Carolina Hurricanes 2-0 on Tuesday night to win the second-round series in five games.

Point’s power-play goal — which followed a huge save from Vasilevskiy — put Tampa Bay up in the second period, then Colton scored in the third. That was more than enough for Vasilevskiy, who finished with 29 saves and stumped the homesteading Hurricanes for the third time in as many series games at PNC Arena.

Tampa Bay is now 5-1 on the road in the playoffs, including taking a 2-0 series lead in the first round against Florida and then claiming all three in this series.

“We’ve got a lot of confidence in our group,” Point said. “I thought we had a pretty good regular season where we were kind of building to this. … Yeah, it’s just a belief in our group. We’ve got four lines and all the D and great goaltending. So we just feel confident.”

It started with Vasilevskiy, a former Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL’s top goaltender and a finalist this year. He allowed just two goals on 70 shots through the first two games to open this series.

Then, after a wild Game 4 in Florida that saw each team score four second-period goals, Vasilevskiy turned away every shot. Among his saves Tuesday was a huge glove stop of a 2-on-1 short-handed chance by Carolina’s Vincent Trocheck.

Point’s goal came moments later on a gorgeous effort. He took a feed from Alex Killorn to his backhand side near the crease, went to his forehand before returning to the backhand to get Carolina netminder Alex Nedeljkovic off balance just enough to score at 4:06 of the second.

“They’re both two big-time players that made big-time plays,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said of the sequence.

The Lightning nearly pushed that lead to 2-0 with captain Steven Stamkos scoring a buzzer-beating goal, but a review determined the puck didn’t cross the goal line in time. But Colton made up for it at 9:04 of the third for the 2-0 lead.

The Hurricanes just couldn’t do the same.

“He made some big saves, timely saves,” Carolina captain Jordan Staal said of Vasilevskiy. “Good goaltenders do that. He did a good job of not letting us get some momentum and get the crowd into it.”

Next up for Tampa Bay in the NHL semifinals is the winner of the series between the New York Islanders and the Boston Bruins. The Islanders lead that best-of-seven series 3-2 and can close it out Wednesday at home.

It was a frustrating finish for the Hurricanes, who were in the playoffs for the third straight season after a nine-season drought. They won the Central Division title for their first division crown since winning the Cup in 2006, and were in the Presidents’ Trophy race until the final week of the season.

“There’s a next step we’ve got to find,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “That’s what’s left.”

VASILEVSKIY’S SHUTOUTS

Vasilevskiy had his first postseason shutout with 22 saves in a 2-0 win against Dallas in Game 6 of last year’s Cup final. Then he had 29 saves in a 4-0 win against Florida in Game 6 of the first-round series.

FAMILIAR SEQUENCE

Point’s power-play goal marked the ninth time in 11 postseason games that Tampa Bay has scored first, including four of five in this series. It was the reverse for the Hurricanes, who surrendered the first goal in nine of 11 playoff games.

INJURY WATCH

The Hurricanes got a significant boost with the return of Trocheck and winger Nino Niederreiter from multi-game injuries.

Niederreiter hadn’t played this series due to an upper-body injury suffered in a practice before the series opener. Trocheck suffered a lower-body injury in Game 2 and hasn’t played since.

Hurricanes forward Warren Foegele remained sidelined with a shoulder injury suffered in a Game 3 hit.

STORM WARNING

Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule sounded the storm-warning siren for the Hurricanes to take the ice for the third period.

Duke associate head men’s basketball coach Jon Scheyer — who last week was named the coach-in-waiting successor to Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski for the 2022-23 season — sounded the first-intermission siren.

Matt James, a former Wake Forest football player and star of the reality TV show “The Bachelor,” sounded the pregame siren.

___

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

___

 More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Comments

Business

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College unveils tenants, training partners at Advanced Technology Center

Crime

Blotter: Salisbury man charged with drug, assault crimes

Local

City of Salisbury to resume normal operations, return to in-person council meetings

Local

Dreams of flight become reality at ASCEND summer camp

Local

Base salary for SPD officers increases to nearly $42,000 next week

News

‘He loved people:’ Larry Ford leaves behind legacy of legal achievement, community service

Local

Statewide pickleball tournament at Catawba College in September expected to draw hundreds of visitors

Local

Resources still available for those dealing with lingering impacts of pandemic

Education

Shoutouts: Misenheimer completes master’s degree in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College

Education

State expands Principal of the Year to charter schools

High School

All-county baseball team: Norris Award winner Honeycutt made the most of a dozen games

Education

Partners in learning raises $3.2 million for new facility

Education

Tar Heel Boys State creates miniature government at Catawba College

News

NC medical marijuana legalization gets hearing in Senate

News

N. Carolina bill ending extra $300 benefits heads to Cooper

Coronavirus

New COVID-19 positives in Rowan at lowest point since start of pandemic

Education

Rowan Wild’s animal camp makes a comeback at Dan Nicholas Park

Coronavirus

Health officials say financial incentives helped vaccination rates; lottery drawing today

Granite Quarry

Granite Quarry adopts budget that keeps tax rate flat

Business

Airport Advisory committee endorses plans for expansion at Mid-Carolina Regional

China Grove

China Grove will celebrate 40th Farmers Day with week full of festivities

Sports

Pistons win in NBA draft lottery; Hornets will get 11th pick

Crime

Officers in Locust arrest drivers who tried to flee; one was on motorcycle reported stolen from Rowan

News

Panel OKs NC Senate budget bill; Dems pan policy provisions