Hurricanes’ top line accepts the challenge against Lightning in NHL playoff series
Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour opened the playoff game Thursday with his top line, sending out center Sebastian Aho and wingers Teuvo Teravainen and Andrei Svechnikov.
Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper did the same. Out went the Lightning’s top line with center Brayden Point and wingers Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov.
So it went Thursday in Game 3 of their playoff series at Amalie Arena. It often was best against best on the ice as the Canes emerged with a critical 3 2 overtime victory after losing the first two games in Raleigh.
“We’re still here,” Brind’Amour said Friday.
If it was a challenge by Cooper, who has the last change at home, it was accepted by the Canes. And it should be the same Saturday in Game 4 as the Canes look to even the series and the Lightning try to go up 3 1.
“I enjoy playing against that top line,” Teravainen said Friday. “They’re really good players and it has been a battle against them and there’s a lot of skill and good pace.”
Brind’Amour decided to put the so called “SAT” line back together from the start for Game 3. Good call. In the second period, Aho pushed the puck into the Tampa Bay zone and passed cross ice to Svecnhnikov, who dropped off a pass to defenseman Brett Pesce at the top of the right circle.
Pesce rifled a shot that beat goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy high to the blocker side. Just like that the Canes had scored the first goal of the game a rarity for Carolina in the playoffs.
Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Brett Pesce (22) celebrates his goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning with right wing Andrei Svechnikov (37) during the second period in Game 3 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup second round playoff series Thursday, June 3, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)
Later in the second period came a play that left the Canes with a 2 0 lead and would be in every NHL highlights package.
Defenseman Jaccob Slavin made a stretch pass toward Teravainen in the neutral zone near the red line. With Aho skating behind him and Kucherov more or less caught flat footed, Teravainen made a between the legs touch pass to Aho, who streaked in to score on Vasilevskiy.
“Heck of a play they made to tip that right on the tape,” Cooper said after the game. “I don’t know how many times he’s going to do that. So give them credit for making one heck of a play under pressure.”Canes captain Jordan Staal had a different description of it, especially after seeing replays.
“I almost lost hermes replica black long wallet clutch
my mind,” Staal said. “That was obviously high end skill. There’s not a lot of guys who can pop a backhand, tip, sauce, through the middle, through his legs to a breaking player.
“Obviously, those two have got great chemistry and vision. And ‘Svechy’ is just a workhorse and they’re very talented. There’s a reason they’re as good as they are.”
Oddly, it was the first time Teravainen had assisted on an Aho goal this season; the winger having missed a big chunk of games because of COVID 19 and a concussion.
“We’ve played together so many years and so many games that we kind of know where we are,” Teravainen said Friday. “Those little plays come so quickly that you’ve got to sometimes just kind of think he’s going to be there. A lot of times, he’s going to.”
Teravainen almost had another primary assist to Aho in overtime, with the Canes on a power play. He made a slick pass to Aho in a tight spot in the slot for a shot and an apparent goal, although it was soon credited to Staal, who was crowding Vasilevskiy and had the puck glance off him for the winner.
Aho finished the game with a goal and two assists, Teravainen had two assists and Svechnikov an assist.
The Canes likely will need more of the same from that line in Game 4. Brind’Amour said Friday he is not sure if either injured forwards Warren Foegele or Vincent Trocheck will be be able to play, although he said both will “try.” Forward Nino Niederreiter did not make the trip.
Point scored on a second period power play and Kucherov had two assists, both on power plays, as the Point line combined for 15 of the Lightning’s 37 shots. But Kucherov also was called for holding the stick in overtime, leading to the Staal winner.
“It’s just the matchup,” Aho said Thursday after the game. “We’ve been playing their line against my line all three games. We see each other a lot out there every game.