Petr Mrazek will make his 2021 postseason debut and replace Alex Nedeljkovic as the Carolina Hurricanes starting goalie in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Second Round against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida on Thursday.
Mrazek is 11-14 with a 2.31 goals-against average, a .914 save percentage and five shutouts in 27 games (26 starts) in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He was 6-2-3 with a 2.06 GAA, a .923 save percentage and three shutouts during the regular season but played 12 games because of a broken thumb and a lower-body injury.
He hasn’t played since May 10.
“Petr has obviously been ready for a while and we’ll give him a shot tonight,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “I think ‘Ned’ has been great. That’s not really the issue. He’s played a lot of games and we’re going to need everyone as fresh as possible to get a victory. Change it up a little bit.”
Nedeljkovic allowed two goals on 15 shots in Game 2, a 2-1 loss at home, after giving up two on 30 shots in Game 1, also a 2-1 loss at home. He is 4-4 with a 2.18 GAA and a .920 save percentage in eight playoff games.
He was named a finalist for the Calder Trophy on Thursday.
“We’ve all talked about the puck handling that ‘Ned’ brings, so as defensemen maybe we just need to make sure we’re getting back for Petr a little bit quicker,” Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin said. “It doesn’t change the confidence that we have going into this game.”
The Lightning have not allowed a 5-on-5 goal in the first two games of the series.
“The series is 2-0 for us, but you look at it and say, ‘This is two really good teams and it’s tight, it could have gone either way, a bounce here, a bounce there,'” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “That’s what the game is. It’s not how many you score, it’s how many you keep out of the net.”
Teams that lead 2-0 in a best-of-7 series are 334-51 (.882) winning the series, including 4-0 this year. The Lightning have never lost a best-of-7 series after winning the first two games, going 7-0 all time, including 3-0 when they go up 3-0 in a series.
Here are 3 keys to Game 3:
1. Finding offense without key weapons
The Hurricanes might have to play without forward Vincent Trocheck, who sustained an injury late in the second period of Game 2 after colliding with teammate Warren Foegele. Trocheck returned for the third but played one 16-second shift and didn’t play again in the final 18:19.
Brind’Amour said Trocheck is doubtful but that he will try to skate in warmups.
If Trocheck can’t play, he will join forward Nino Niederreiter (upper body) on the sidelines. Niederreiter missed Games 1 and 2 as well and is unlikely to play in the series.
Trocheck and Niederreiter combined for 37 goals during the regular season.
“Their presence is definitely missed but it shouldn’t change what we do, it shouldn’t change the game plan that we play and what makes us successful as a team,” Slavin said. “We’ve got goal scorers in the lineup who will break through and we’ll be fine.”
2. The wall in Tampa Bay’s net
Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed two goals on 70 shots in Games 1 and 2. He also had a 29-save shutout in a series-clinching 4-0 win against the Florida Panthers in Game 6 of the first round, giving him a 0.67 goals-against average and a .980 save percentage in the past three games.
Vasilevskiy can set a Lightning record for consecutive playoff games allowing one goal or fewer. He’s currently at three, tied with Ben Bishop (2016) and Nikolai Khabibulin (2003). He also can become the eighth-fastest NHL goalie to reach 40 playoff wins (67 games). The only active goalie to get there faster was Marc-Andre Fleury of the Vegas Golden Knights (65 games).
“It does make you sit an inch taller on the bench when you’ve got him back there,” Cooper said.
3. Finding success on the power play
Each team scored a power-play goal in Game 1, the Lightning going 1-for-3 and the Hurricanes 1-for-5. Each went 0-for-2 in Game 2.
What’s been seen through two games is the penalty kills mostly outworking the power plays. The team that gets its power play to click either for a goal or for momentum in Game 3 will have an advantage.
“You want to win that special teams battle and we haven’t, but we haven’t lost it either,” Brind’Amour said. “I know they’re thinking the same thing. The margin for error against this team is very slim.”
Hurricanes projected lineup
Andrei Svechnikov — Sebastian Aho — Teuvo Teravainen
Warren Foegele — Jordan Staal — Martin Necas
Brock McGinn — Jordan Martinook — Jesper Fast
Morgan Geekie — Steven Lorentz — Cedric Paquette
Jaccob Slavin — Dougie Hamilton
Brady Skjei — Brett Pesce
Jake Bean — Jani Hakanpaa
Scratched: Jake Gardiner, Maxime Lajoie, Max McCormick, Drew Shore, Ryan Suzuki, Roland McKeown, James Reimer
Injured: Nino Niederreiter (upper body), Vincent Trocheck (lower body)
Lightning projected lineup
Ondrej Palat — Brayden Point — Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn — Anthony Cirelli — Steven Stamkos
Barclay Goodrow — Yanni Gourde — Blake Coleman
Ross Colton — Tyler Johnson — Pat Maroon
Victor Hedman — Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh — Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev — Luke Schenn
Scratched: Cal Foote, Mitchell Stephens, Gemel Smith, Christopher Gibson, Spencer Martin, Fredrik Claesson, Ben Thomas, Alex Barre-Boulet, Daniel Walcott, Andreas Borgman, Taylor Raddysh, Boris Katchouk, Mathieu Joseph
Injured: David Savard (upper body)
Trocheck was not on the ice for the Hurricanes morning skate. Geekie would enter the lineup if Trocheck can’t play. … Stamkos and McDonagh were not on the ice for the Lightning morning skate but each is expected to play. … Savard will not play in Game 3 but Lightning coach Jon Cooper said he expects the defenseman to return to the lineup at some point during the series.