RALEIGH, N.C. -- Andrei Vasilevskiy was at his best again with the Tampa Bay Lightning in position to close out a playoff series.
Throw in a couple of timely goals from Brayden Point and Ross Colton, and the reigning Stanley Cup champions are a step closer to playing for another title.
Vasilevskiy posted his third straight shutout in a series-clinching victory, helping the Lightning beat the Carolina Hurricanes 2-0 on Tuesday night to win the second-round series in five games.
Point's power-play goal -- which followed a huge save from Vasilevskiy -- put Tampa Bay up in the second period, then Colton scored in the third. That was more than enough for Vasilevskiy, who finished with 29 saves and stumped the homesteading Hurricanes for the third time in as many series games at PNC Arena.
Tampa Bay is now 5-1 on the road in the playoffs, including taking a 2-0 series lead in the first round against Florida and then claiming all three in this series.
And the Lightning are now 8-3 overall this postseason, having dispatched the two teams that finished above them in the Central Division: first-place Carolina, and the second-place Florida Panthers, who fell to the champions in Round 1 in six games.
Indeed, the team that -- as the No. 1 overall seed -- lost in the first round in 2019 to the Columbus Blue Jackets has now won six straight series dating back the postseason bubble last year.
"We've got a lot of confidence in our group," Point said. "I thought we had a pretty good regular season where we were kind of building to this. ... Yeah, it's just a belief in our group. We've got four lines and all the D and great goaltending. So we just feel confident."
It started with Vasilevskiy, a former Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL's top goaltender and a finalist this year. He allowed just two goals on 70 shots through the first two games to open this series.
Then, after a wild Game 4 in Florida that saw each team score four second-period goals, Vasilevskiy turned away every shot. Among his saves Tuesday was a huge glove stop of a 2-on-1 short-handed chance by Carolina's Vincent Trocheck.
Point's goal came moments later on a gorgeous effort. He took a feed from Alex Killorn to his backhand side near the crease, went to his forehand before returning to the backhand to get Carolina netminder Alex Nedeljkovic off balance just enough to score at 4:06 of the second.
"They're both two big-time players that made big-time plays," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said of the sequence.
The Lightning nearly pushed that lead to 2-0 with captain Steven Stamkos scoring a buzzer-beating goal, but a review determined the puck didn't cross the goal line in time. But Colton made up for it at 9:04 of the third for the 2-0 lead.
The Hurricanes just couldn't do the same.
"He made some big saves, timely saves," Carolina captain Jordan Staal said of Vasilevskiy. "Good goaltenders do that. He did a good job of not letting us get some momentum and get the crowd into it."
Next up for Tampa Bay in the NHL semifinals is the winner of the series between the New York Islanders and the Boston Bruins. The Islanders lead that best-of-seven series 3-2 and can close it out Wednesday at home.
The Lightning defeated both of those teams last year in the playoff bubble, en route to the title.
It was a frustrating finish for the Hurricanes, who were in the playoffs for the third straight season after a nine-season drought. They won the Central Division title for their first division crown since winning the Cup in 2006, and were in the Presidents' Trophy race until the final week of the season.
Carolina, with depth on defense and youth up front, appears to be in a position to contend for a title but continues to struggle in the postseason. Last year, the Hurricanes lost to the Bruins in the first round.
"There's a next step we've got to find," Carolina coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "That's what's left."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Arbitrator upholds 8-game suspension for Colorado Avalanche's Nazem Kadri
Nazem Kadri's eight-game suspension has been upheld by a neutral arbitrator, the NHL and NHL Players' Association announced Tuesday.
The Colorado Avalanche center is eligible to return for a potential Game 7 of the second-round series against the Vegas Golden Knights. The series is tied 2-2, with Game 5 on Tuesday in Denver.
Kadri, whom the NHL called "a player with a substantial disciplinary record" in its initial ruling, was suspended in the first round after delivering a "high, forceful check" to St. Louis Blues defenseman Justin Faulk's head on May 21. Kadri, 30, has been suspended six times, including three times in the playoffs.
Commissioner Gary Bettman upheld the suspension, leaving the decision to a neutral arbitrator, Shyam Das. In his decision Tuesday, Das wrote that the NHL was correct to suspend Kadri.
Das has been a labor arbitrator since the 1970s and previously worked with MLB. He has ruled in the NHLPA's favor in the past. In 2018, Das was the neutral arbitrator who decided to reduce Capitals forward Tom Wilson's suspension from 20 to 14 games for a preseason hit on Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist.
In his original Zoom hearing, Kadri argued that he was trying to deliver a body check. The NHL Department of Player Safety, however, determined that the head was the main point of contract for Kadri's hit. Faulk did not play in the remainder of the series for the Blues, and his teammates were outraged by the play.
"The guy can't control himself," Blues center Brayden Schenn said at the time. "In the playoffs, he's a repeat offender. Bad hits. Greasy hits. He had a guy in a vulnerable position, and he picked nothing but the head."
Kadri's previous two playoff suspensions came when he was a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto traded Kadri after the second infraction -- he got suspended the balance of the first round in 2019, which turned out to be five games, for cross-checking.
Kadri had 32 points in 56 games this season for Colorado, which won the Presidents' Trophy.
What comes next for Black Girl Hockey Club?
Renee Hess is an avid hockey fan from Riverside, California. Whenever she went to an Anaheim Ducks or Los Angeles Kings game, she couldn't help but notice: There were never two Black women sitting together.
Hess connected with other Black women on social media, and heard similar anecdotes: Sometimes they felt uncomfortable going to an arena, wary of feeling lonely or getting "weird looks" suggesting they didn't belong.
So Hess organized a meetup for what she called Black Girl Hockey Club in 2018 at a Washington Capitals game. "I didn't really have any expectations," Hess said. "I just wanted to form a community."
After more than 40 women showed up to the first meetup, she held another in Nashville, Tennessee, in 2019. Soon after, the House of Representatives introduced a bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Willie O'Ree, the NHL's first Black player. Hess was invited to D.C. for an event celebrating the bill. "At first I was like, why am I getting invited to go?" she said. "Who am I?"
Her second thought: How am I going to afford this?
"I was paying for everything myself, to D.C., to Nashville, I couldn't afford to go back," said Hess, then an adjunct professor and freelance writer. "So I put it out on social media: 'I really want to go to this thing, I think it would be cool to represent, can you guys help me raise some money for an airline ticket and accommodation?' And folks did."
Hess was flattered, but also inspired by how big the support group was, "just to represent, and give them a voice."
"I spent the rest of 2019 wondering, what could I do for this audience?" she said. "This group of people who were willing not just to put their voice forward, but their dollars too."
Two years later, she had no idea just how big Black Girl Hockey Club would become. Now registered as a nonprofit, Hess launched a scholarship program. To date, she has awarded $27,000 worth of grants to 26 young Black girls all over the world -- everywhere from Winnipeg to California to Nairobi. This summer, BGHC is creating a mentorship program (which is led and inspired by Metropolitan Riveters defenseman Saroya Tinker). Hess also created a "Get Uncomfortable Pledge," which is meant to "call out allies and have folks who say they are supportive of anti-racism in hockey, to put words into action," says Hess. Over 6,000 individuals signed the pledge, including many NHL team staffers, executives and players.
Hess has also been named one of three finalists for the NHL's Willie O'Ree Community Hero Award. If she wins, she will receive $25,000.
Being recognized by the NHL -- and feeling supported by the league behind the scenes -- feels like a significant step for Hess. Hockey remains one of the most predominantly white sports in the world. There are no Black majority team owners, team presidents, GMs or head coaches in the NHL. Roughly 95% of the league's players are white.
"I think that the NHL is listening, which is a big change from what they were doing five years ago," Hess said. "And they're making those incremental changes in things we've talked about."
Hess said she has noticed a gradual shift when it comes to advertising. "I'm seeing more Black people in hockey commercials than I've ever seen in my life," she said. "And not just that -- teams supporting their Black players, and making sure they are visible. It rides a fine line between tokenism and advertising, because they're so few, but for Black audience members, it's a breath of fresh air. So I see it as a positive thing to highlight these black players. They're there, they're doing the work, they deserve the recognition."
Hess cites a conversation she recently had with Kings pro scout Blake Bolden, the first Black woman to ever hold the role.
Increasingly, people working in hockey have reached out to Hess. The main thing she tries to instill is the power they hold. "Whether you're in ticket sales, or the GM of a team, you have power," Hess said. "It doesn't have to be, 'We solved racism,' because you can't do t
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