Lightning will play Hurricanes in Stanley Cup Second Round

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The Tampa Bay Lightning will play the Carolina Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup Second Round.

Tampa Bay, the No. 3 seed in the Discover Central Division, eliminated the No. 2 seed Florida Panthers in six games of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs

Carolina, the No. 1 seed, eliminated Nashville, the No. 4 seed, with a 4-3 overtime win in Game 6 of that best-of-7 series on Thursday.

Tampa Bay is the defending Stanley Cup champion.

“You’ve probably heard the fourth one is the toughest to win in a series, and when you have a chance to do it you don’t want to waste them,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “We had a plan set. But the players … it was 60 minutes of sheer will and compete. And to win in this league that’s what you need. When you make the playoffs, you need it from everybody. The players gave it. They get all the credit in the world.”

The schedule for the second round has not been announced.

Nikita Kucherov leads the Lightning and the playoffs with 11 points (three goals, eight assists), and Victor Hedman (eight assists) , Alex Killorn (four goals, four assists) and Steven Stamkos (three goals, five assists) have scored eight points each. Andrei Vasilevskiy has a 2.64 goals-against average and .929 save percentage.

Sebastian Aho leads the Hurricanes with seven points (five goals, two assists), and Jordan Staal (four goals, one assist) and Martin Necas (two goals, three assists) have scored five each. Alex Nedeljkovic is 4-2 with a 2.22 GAA and .922 save percentage.

The Lightning were 4-3-1 against the Hurricanes in the regular season. Killorn (two goals, three assists) and Hedman (one goal, four assists) led Tampa Bay with five points. Vasilevskiy was 3-3-1 with a 2.14 GAA, a .933 save percentage and one shutout in seven games. Backup Curtis McElhinney made 31 saves in a 3-1 win Feb. 25.

Necas led Carolina with eight points (three goals, five assists), Aho scored six points (two goals, four assists), and Dougie Hamilton had five assists against Tampa Bay. Nedeljkovic was 2-1-0 with a 1.02 GAA, a .962 save percentage and one shutout; James Reimer was 1-2-0 with a 2.71 GAA and an .892 save percentage; and Petr Mrazek was 1-0-1 with a 1.45 GAA, a .956 save percentage and one shutout.

Tampa Bay has never played Carolina in the playoffs.

The Lightning advanced to the second round for the fifth time in the past seven seasons. Tampa Bay has advanced to the conference final in four of the past six seasons.

Carolina was eliminated by the Boston Bruins in five games in the first round last season after being swept by the Bruins in the 2019 Eastern Conference Final.

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