The Carolina Hurricanes have lost the first two games to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Second Round, and now face their first two road games against the defending Cup champions.
But the Hurricanes feel they’re close to where they need to be to get back in the series.
“I don’t feel we’re being outmatched one bit,” coach Rod Brind’Amour said after a 2-1 loss in Game 2 on Tuesday.
“The narrative’s going to be, ‘Oh, you lost two at home,’ and this and that. That’s not the picture, though, that I’m painting here. We played [darn] good, we worked extremely hard, we were right there. A couple of breaks went their way, they worked for them, they’re a great team. But I’m proud of the group, how hard they’re working and sticking to what we do. I feel like we’re right there.”
Game 3 is at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; USA, SN, TVAS).
The Hurricanes outshot the Lightning 32-15 in Game 2. They cut down on their penalties [two] from Game 1 [three] and went 2-for-2 on the penalty kill. They got some traffic around Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who made 31 saves after being named a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goalie earlier in the day.
When it comes to getting in Vasilevskiy’s way, forward Jordan Staal said the Hurricanes could still do more.
“As forwards, we have to do a better job of getting to the net, and we have to score more than one goal. It’s plain and simple,” said Staal, who had an assist on Andrei Svechnikov‘s goal with 1:30 remaining in the third period.
“We believe in our group. I mean, you look at those games, they’re tight. We’re going to have to go in that building and basically play the same game they played here, and that’s not giving them much, and us playing a good road game, and we have to find a way to get a win.”
The Hurricanes may have to do that without forward Vincent Trocheck, who sustained an unspecified injury when he collided with teammate Warren Foegele with 1:28 remaining in the second period. Brind’Amour said he hoped to know more about Trocheck’s status on Wednesday but, “it doesn’t look good.” Trocheck had 43 points (17 goals, 26 assists) in 47 regular-season games and three points (two goals, one assist) in eight Stanley Cup Playoff games.
Carolina was already without forward Nino Niederreiter, who has missed the past two games with an upper-body injury sustained at practice Saturday. Brind’Amour said Niederreiter, who scored 34 points (20 goals, 14 assists) in 56 regular-season games and one point, a goal, in six playoff games, is “very doubtful” to return in the series.
The Hurricanes have scored two goals in two games against the Lightning, neither of which was at even strength. Nevertheless, they believe they’re close.
“Once you’re in the game shift by shift, all those little things that you’ve been doing all year long, all your life, you just have to stick with it,” Staal said. “You’ve got to believe in your group. I know I do. We’ve got to be a lot better in certain situations and with certain things, and we will be. Hopefully we’re going to turn the tide here.”