Lightning will play Hurricanes or Predators in Stanley Cup Second Round

The Tampa Bay Lightning will play the winner of the series between the Carolina Hurricanes and Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Second Round.

Tampa Bay, the No. 3 seed in the Discover Central Division, eliminated the No. 2 seed Florida Panthers on Wednesday with a 4-0 win in Game 6 of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Carolina, the No. 1 seed, can eliminate Nashville, the No. 4 seed, by winning Game 6 of that best-of-7 series at Nashville on Thursday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVAS, BSSO, BSSO).

Tampa Bay is the defending Stanley Cup champion.

“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,” Tampa Bay coach Jon 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.”

Video: NFCU Mission: Stanley Cup – Lightning

Nikita Kucherov leads the Lightning with 11 points (three goals, eight assists) this postseason, and Victor Hedman (eight assists) , Alex Killorn (four goals, four assists) and Steven Stamkos (three goals, five assists) each has scored eight. Andrei Vasilevskiy has a 2.64 goals-against average and .929 save percentage.

The Lightning were 4-3-1 against the Hurricanes in the regular season. Killorn (two goals, three assists) and Hedman (one goal, four assists) led Tampa Bay with five points. Vasilevskiy was 3-3-1 with a 2.14 GAA, a .933 save percentage and one shutout in seven games. Backup Curtis McElhinney made 31 saves in a 3-1 win Feb. 25.

Martin Necas led Carolina with eight points (three goals, five assists), Sebastian Aho scored six points (two goals, four assists), and Dougie Hamilton had five assists against Tampa Bay. Alex Nedeljkovic was 2-1-0 with a 1.02 GAA, a .962 save percentage and one shutout; James Reimer was 1-2-0 with a 2.71 GAA and an .892 save percentage; and Petr Mrazek was 1-0-1 with a 1.45 GAA, a .956 save percentage and one shutout.

The Lightning won six of eight games against the Predators. Brayden Point (three goals, seven assists) and Mikhail Sergachev (10 assists) led Tampa Bay with 10 points. Stamkos scored nine points (six goals, three assists) in six games, and Yanni Gourde scored five goals. Vasilevskiy was 5-0-0 with a 1.81 GAA, a .943 save percentage and one shutout, and McElhinney was 1-2-0 with a 3.73 GAA and an .845 save percentage.

Viktor Arvidsson (four goals, two assists) and Calle Jarnkrok (one goal, five assists) led Nashville with six points each against Tampa Bay. Roman Josi scored five points (one goal, four assists). Pekka Rinne was 1-4-0 with a 2.87 GAA and a .915 save percentage, and Juuse Saros was 1-2-0 with a 4.06 GAA and an .850 save percentage.

Tampa Bay has never played Carolina or Nashville in the playoffs.

The Lightning advanced to the second round for the fifth time in the past seven seasons. Tampa Bay has advanced to the conference final in four of the past six seasons.