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Aho Leads Carolina Past Tampa; Staal Scores OT Winner

JL Matthews
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Tampa Bay, FL -- Jordan Staal got his second overtime game-winner of this year's playoffs, as the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 on Thursday night. The win gave Carolina their first win of the series and cut Tampa Bay's lead to 2-1.

Sebastian Aho and Brett Pesce scored in regulation for Carolina.

Alex Killorn and Brayden Point scored for the Lightning.

After dropping back-to-back games in Raleigh, the Carolina Hurricanes were in desperate need of a Game Three win on Thursday night.

With their backs against the wall, Sebastian Aho came through for his team.

"He's a star," Canes defenceman Brett Pesce said of Aho. "He's a world-class player. He seems to always come through for us; he's our best player. He definitely showed it tonight."

Aho turned in a three-point night (1g, 2a). He now boasts 10 points (6g, 4a) in nine postseason games played this postseason.

"He's very competitive," Canes head coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "That's what I love about him. He wants to get better, but he's super competitive [and] wants to win."

After a scoreless first period, Aho got his first point of the night with a secondary assist on Brett Pesce's opening goal. Aho lead a breakout found Svechnikov with a pass, and Svechnikov set up Pesce for a blast that gave Carolina their first lead of the series at 5:15 of the second period.

A little over two minutes later, Jaccob Slavin found Teuvo Teravainen with a stretch pass. Teravainen deflected the pass onto Aho's stick, and Aho beat Vasilevskiy through the five-hole to give the Canes a two-goal lead.

Tampa struck back with two powerplay goals. The first came from Brayden Point at 8:57; the second was from Alex Killorn at 16:18.

Once Tampa Bay drew level on the scoreboard, they dominated the remainder of regulation. The Lightning outshot Carolina 9-5 in the third period.

Petr Mrazek, making his first start since the regular season, kept the score level.

"Huge game from him," Pesce said. "He was incredible. That says a lot about him...We have two number one [goalies]. I couldn't be happier...He was huge for us tonight."

In the final minutes of regulation, the Canes were dealt what looked like a cruel blow. Dougie Hamilton was called for a tripping penalty with only 1:08 left.

The Lightning powerplay, which had gone 2 of 2 already, had the chance to win the game.

Carolina killed off the first half of the penalty and looked to regroup during the overtime intermission.

"[We were] pretty confident," Aho said. "We knew we had to kill the penalty early on, then just take over. Eventually, those penalties usually even out. We were able to score a goal on our powerplay, and that was huge."

After killing off the Tampa powerplay, Carolina got their chance when Nikita Kucherov was whistled for holding the stick.

On the subsequent powerplay, Teravainen, Aho, and Staal combined for the game-winner.

"All five of us kept the puck in [on that powerplay]," Aho said. "That's the key...We had a couple good looks before that goal. It's not something you practice too often. I just know that Teravainen has great vision out there...I got a pretty good shot out of it, and obviously, big man at the hoop, that's what you need there."


Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen each had two assists for Carolina; Andrei Svechnikov and Jaccob Slavin each had one assist.

Nikita Kucherov had two assists for Tampa Bay; Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos each had one assist.

Andrei Vasilevskiy made 24 saves in the losing effort.

Up Next

Game Four is Saturday afternoon at 4:00pm Eastern.

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JL Matthews is a writer with interests spanning history, humor, tv/film, parenting, and more. His work has appeared in numerous publications, and he is a 6x Top Writer on Medium. Follow him on News Break, Medium, and Twitter for updates and latest work.

Raleigh, NC

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