Nedeljkovic earns first NHL shutout as Hurricanes beat Lightning
Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 21, 2021
By BOB SUTTON
RALEIGH (AP) — Alex Nedeljkovic made 24 saves in his first NHL shutout and the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-0 on Saturday night.
Vincent Trocheck, Sebastian Aho, ex-Tampa Bay player Cedric Paquette and Andrei Svechnikov scored for the Hurricanes, who have won five of six and own a six-game points streak.
Carolina limited the Lightning’s scoring chances.
“We were excellent tonight,” Nedeljkovic said. “We didn’t give them much of anything. … From start to finish, we were playing our game and it showed.”
It was the first of four consecutive games between the teams, with Saturday’s game coming as part of a revised schedule.
Tampa Bay has yet to score in two meetings, including an overtime loss, against the Hurricanes this season. Nedeljkovic stopped 13 shots in the second period.
“They’ve had our number this year,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. “Certainly they bring their best against us this year. We haven’t even scored a goal (against them).”
The Hurricanes played an alert style of game and that made coach Rod Brind’Amour particularly pleased. Tampa Bay had only one power-play chance.
“If we had to block a shot, we did,” Brind’Amour said.
Nedeljkovic was drafted by Carolina in 2014. He has four career victories, including a 2-1-1 record this year.
“He paid his dues,” Brind’Amour said.
Andrei Vasilevskiy made 24 saves as the Lightning lost for the third time in four games.
Tampa Bay, which hadn’t played since Monday, had some sloppy puck handling, and Trocheck jammed the puck across the line despite Vasilevskiy’s efforts. Trocheck’s 300th career goal gave him a six-game points streak.
Another Tampa Bay breakdown led to Aho’s goal as he took a pass from Svechnikov and skated in on Vasilevskiy without resistance.
Paquette’s third-period goal was his second of the season and first with the Hurricanes.
“You couldn’t write a better script than that, only my fourth game here against my old teammates,” Paquette said. “It was nice to finally get one.”
Aho assisted on Svechnikov’s empty-net goal.
The outcome halted Tampa Bay’s nine-game (5-0-4) points streak in Raleigh.
WE KNOW YOU
Playing four consecutive games against each other is bound to bring about tension. Some of that surfaced by the second period in the first game of the stretch.
Paquette, who was a member of the Lightning’s 2020 Stanley Cup championship team, and Tampa Bay’s Gemel Smith were involved in a post-whistle spat and had to be separated.
Paquette, who played parts of seven seasons for the Lightning, is completing his first week with the Hurricanes after coming on board via last weekend’s trade with Ottawa.
“They don’t ask me to do too much,” Paquette said. “Just to play my game, and I think I have done that since I got here.”
The second meeting of the season between the teams was moved up two nights when schedule tweaks were made because the Lightning’s games at Dallas were nixed based on weather conditions and the power crisis in Texas. This meeting replaces Tampa Bay’s March 28 visit to Raleigh.
TAKE YOUR TURN
The 25-year-old Nedeljkovic played his 10th career NHL game and his fourth outing of the season. His role expanded when top goalie Petr Mrazek went out with an injury on Jan. 30. He has been sharing time with James Reimer.
“You’re just trying to stay focused,” Nedeljkovic said of the final minutes. “You’re trying to play a full 60 minutes there.”
Mrazek blanked the Lightning on Jan. 28 for Carolina’s only other shutout of the season.
“I think we have to do a better job of creating offense against this team,” Lightning left winger Alex Killorn said.
Tampa Bay has posted at least two goals in all its other games this season. The Hurricanes are the only team to shut out the Lightning since March 2019, when Minnesota did it.
BEATING THE BEST
The Hurricanes have one of the best winning percentages in the NHL. Defeating the Lighting might be the ideal measuring stick.
“It’s a great test because you’re playing the best,” Brind’Amour said.
“You could see there was not a lot of room. … It’s a great test for us to see how it’s done. You see it there. They play it right. We had to (do that) tonight to win.”
With his first shutout coming against the reigning Stanley Cup champions, it was something for Nedeljkovic to savor.
“Every time we get two points against them, it’s huge,” he said.
Lightning: Tampa Bay stays on for Monday night’s rematch, its sixth road outing in a seven-game span.
Hurricanes: Carolina hosts Tampa Bay on Monday before a five-game trip.
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