After struggling to beat Carolina in a 6-4 win on Saturday, you just knew the Lightning would bounce back with an impressive performance, and they did not disappoint.
Brayden Point scored the game-winner on a power-play goal at the 4:06 mark of the second period, and Ross Colton added an insurance goal in the third to make the final 2-0.
When this team gets a lead on its opponent and is on the brink of closing out a series, they play a different style of hockey. It is a thing of beauty to watch.
Outside of Andrei Vasilevskiy, no one had a better game tonight than Mikhail Sergachev.
Sergachev, in just over 24 minutes of action, led the Lightning with five blocked shots and harassed the Hurricanes all night long. Sergachev summed things up perfectly after the series-clinching win against Carolina. “We didn’t want to come back to Tampa and play another game. Guys were locked in & Vasy was locked in as always.”
The Lightning moves on to the Stanley Cup semi-finals and will play either the Boston Bruins or the New York Islanders.
This is the fifth time in the last seven years and the seventh time in franchise history that the Bolts have advanced to the semi-finals.
Andrei Vasilevskiy had 29 saves for his second shutout of the postseason. This was Vasilevskiy’s second shoutout in a series-clinching win. Vasi shut out the Florida Panthers 4-0 in game six of their first-round series to send the Panthers home.
Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said Vasilevskiy is one of the best goalies he has ever faced. “I’ve seen a lot of goalies that were good, but he’s as good as anyone I’ve ever seen. We had a lot of great looks tonight, and they looked like nothing because he was in the right place.”
Brayden Point, sounding like Tom Brady, talked about the amount of work yet to be done this postseason. “It’s just the belief in our group. We’ve got four lines and all the D and great goaltending. This is not the end goal. There’s still so much work to be done.
The fourth line of Ross Colton, Tyler Johnson, and Pat Maroon continued their impressive play and have become a line to be reckoned with in this series.
Jon Cooper was asked about the play of the fourth line, especially down the stretch playing those all-important minutes. “There’s one time they looked at me and said, ‘Are we going?’ and I’m like, ‘Damn right, you’re going.'”
Cooper said these last two divisional playoffs series against Florida and Carolina have been some of the most challenging playoff series he has been involved in as a head coach. “I’ve been very fortunate to be a coach in a few playoffs. Those are two of the toughest rounds we’ve ever faced. It was a hell of a grind to get out of this division.”
The Lightning are halfway home to another Stanley Cup Championship.
The Bruins and Islanders will play game six tomorrow night in Long Island. Game seven, if necessary, would be Friday Night. So the earliest the next series could begin would be Sunday if the Boston-New York series goes seven games.