TAMPA, Fla. - The Tampa Bay Lightning officially has an opponent for the second round of the NHL playoffs.
The Carolina Panthers advanced Thursday in the Stanley Cup playoffs, earning a second-round matchup with the reigning Stanley Cup champions.
The Hurricanes jumped out to a 2-0 series lead against the Nashville Predators. But they lost Game 3 in double overtime, followed by Game 4 the same way, then had to rally in the third period of Game 5.
As for the Bolts, they're enjoying some downtime for now – in between series – coming off the shutout win over the Florida Panthers Wednesday night to close out the first-round series. It was their best performance yet this postseason, said Jon Cooper. An effort like that is required in every single game, in order to repeat and keep the Stanley Cup.
"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," 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 Hurricanes will have a home-ice advantage against the Lightning, and they’ll have even more rowdy fans. The team announced Wednesday that the NHL had granted approval for PNC Arena to host an increased capacity of more than 15,000 fans, up from about 12,000 against the Predators. On Thursday, the Lightning announced an increase in fan capacity for Amalie Arena – a cap of 13,500 for the second round.
Game one of the Lightning-Hurricanes series will open in Raleigh at 5 p.m. Sunday, May 30.