The Carolina Hurricanes believe they have a sound plan to get the best of Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy in the Stanley Cup Second Round.
Vasilevskiy already has the upper hand in the best-of-7 series, making 37 saves in Tampa Bay’s 2-1 win in Game 1 on Sunday, and Carolina is aware it needs to execute better when it hosts Game 2 on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS).
“You’ve just got to keep trying and keep pounding the rock,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said Monday. “Eventually you break it down. That’s the mindset you have to have.”
Vasilevskiy won the Vezina Trophy voted as the top goalie in the NHL in 2019 and the Stanley Cup last season with the Lightning. He led the NHL with 31 wins during the regular-season, going 31-10-1 with a 2.21 goals-against average, a .925 save percentage and five shutouts in 42 games, and has carried his strong play into the playoffs, where he is 5-2 with a 2.41 GAA, a .936 save percentage and one shutout in seven games.
“He’s the best goalie in the world, so we’re going to have to do some special things to get pucks by him,” Hurricanes forward Jordan Martinook said. “We’ve got to make it hard on him, get in front of him.”
Defenseman Jake Bean scored Carolina’s only goal in Game 1, at 1:41 of the third period, when his power-play shot eluded Vasilevskiy while he was screened by forwards Jesper Fast in front and Jordan Staal in the high slot.
“Look at the goal we scored; good net front presence,” Martinook said. “We had good looks, but I think we can get there a little more. You’ve got to tip your cap, he’s very good. We’ll come again and try to throw everything we’ve got at him, get more bodies in front. That’s all we can do.”
At the other end of the ice, the Hurricanes are confident rookie goalie Alex Nedeljkovic can bounce back after allowing the game-winning goal to Lightning forward Barclay Goodrow at 12:39 of the third period in Game 1. It came on a shot Nedelijkovic should have stopped, from the lower left circle that beat him short side.
“I talked to him [Monday] morning, I told him it’s not a big deal,” Hurricanes defenseman Brady Skjei said. “He’s been great this whole year. He’s been a stud. So we need him to keep playing that same way. His confidence is the biggest thing for him. When he’s going, it’s fun to watch. I know us defensemen enjoy when he’s in the net, the way he plays the puck. I think it’s definitely a game changer. So he’ll be just fine. He’ll be right back to his ways and we’re excited that we have him.”
Nedeljkovic made 28 saves in Game 1 against the Lightning and is 4-3 with a 2.19 GAA, .923 save percentage and one shutout in seven playoff games. He was one of three goalies, along with Petr Mrazek and James Reimer, to play for the Hurricanes during the regular season. But he’s grabbed the No. 1 role in the playoffs, when he helped Carolina defeat the Nashville Predators in six games in the first round.
“I didn’t even talk to him,” Brind’Amour said of Nedeljkovic. “We all make mistakes, we all have things we wish we could do back. It’s not going to affect what I think of him. They have a lot of trust in him. Certainly we know he’s going to battle for us and give his best. That’s all we can ask for everybody. It’s all about the next play, it’s always about how you respond.”