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The Carolina Hurricanes find themselves in a 2-0 hole heading to Florida, following another overtime loss to the Panthers in Game 2 last night.
In a bit of a twist, the only lineup change for the Hurricanes came in net. Antti Raanta got the start in place of Frederik Andersen, who had been called on for the last seven games. Considering Andersen played seven periods of hockey only two days prior, the move made sense, but was still a notable nonetheless. Mackenzie MacEachern also entered the lineup in place of Derek Stepan.
You couldn’t have asked for much of a better start for Carolina, with Jalen Chatfield coming in from the point to deflect in a pass from Sebastian Aho under two minutes into the opening frame. However, after Matthew Tkachuk nearly tied the game with a shot off the post soon after, Gustav Forsling did get the Panthers on the board, putting a shot off Jesper Fast’s stick and it floated over Raanta.
But the Hurricanes challenged for offside and once again, a Panthers goal was called back. Shayne Gostisbehere did take a delay of game penalty afterwards but the Hurricanes arguably had the better chances on it and kept all the momentum early, outshooting Florida 11-1 through the first seven minutes or so.
Then with only four minutes to go in the first period, Jack Drury took a pass from Mackenzie MacEachern to beat Sergei Bobrovsky, seemingly extending the lead. However, we got yet another goal successfully challenged for offside, meaning the game remained 1-0 through 20 minutes.
After a slow start to the second period though, Florida managed to tie the game about seven minutes into the period, with Aleksander Barkov making a great move to beat Raanta in-close. Carolina had a great chance to retake the lead later off a chance for Teuvo Teravainen, but Bobrovsky slid over to make a massive save and keep the game tied.
In the third period, Carolina was able to really limit any offense for Florida, holding the Panthers to just three shots. Jordan Staal notably had about three good chances (of his seven total shots in the game) but couldn’t convert. Then at the other end, Colin White nearly put Florida ahead off a bad turnover from Brett Pesce, but couldn’t find the net, and once again, the teams needed overtime.
After a couple good chances were exchanged in the extra frame though, Jesperi Kotkaniemi ended up taking a penalty, giving the Panthers a great opportunity. On the ensuing power play, Matthew Tkachuk was the hero once again, finishing off a great passing play to give Florida the win and a 2-0 series lead.
Once again, the Hurricanes came close, but couldn’t get the job done. They outshot Florida 36-22 through regulation, marking another instance where they outplayed their opponent but fell short.
Sergei Bobrovsky also continues to be a huge factor, though. At the other end, Raanta was fine for Carolina, but we can probably expect Andersen to be back in for Game 3.
While the Hurricanes do have trouble converting on chances as is, Bobrovsky has been elite. Regardless, he won the goaltending battle yet again and the Hurricanes are going to need an answer.
So now, Carolina is in a tough spot. It’s frustrating given how close the games have been and considering the Hurricanes have really outplayed the Panthers through stretches of the series. If a bounce or two went differently, Carolina could easily be up 2-0 instead.
With the way the Hurricanes have been playing though, I still think there’s reason to think they could climb back. There’s no lack of effort, just a lack of finishing.
We saw the New Jersey Devils lose their first two playoff games at home, before rebounding for two road wins to even their series against the New York Rangers. It's possible, but Game 3 will be pivotal.
Puck drop for Game 3 in Florida is set for 8 p.m. tomorrow.
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