RALEIGH — After the Carolina gave up the tying goal in the third period, it would have been easy for them to wilt during an overtime penalty kill.
Instead, it was the defining moment in a 4-3 shootout win over the Nashville Predators in a matinee Sunday at PNC Arena.
With key penalty killer Jordan Staal in the box for tripping, Joakim Nordstrom made two big blocks on Predators defenseman P.K. Subban during a 4 on 3 to help Carolina survive overtime, and Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen scored on countryman Juuse Saros in the shootout to give Carolina the win.
“That’s my job out there. I didn’t really have much of a choice,” Nordstrom said. “But it hurts way more to see the puck go in the back of the net than getting hit by it. So, easy choice for me.”
Nashville forced overtime when Carolina goalie Scott Darling had trouble with his glove hand for the second straight start, bobbling a shot that allowed play to continue and lead to an eventual goal by Craig Smith to tie the game with 8:45 remaining.
“The third goal’s my bad. We should’ve won in regulation,” said Darling, who made 32 saves and stopped both shootout attempts he faced. “The boys sucked it up and did an extra five minutes of hard work for me and then scored in the shootout.”
The hard work included key blocks by Marcus Kruger and Jaccob Slavin, along with Nordstrom’s efforts.
“That’s Nordy through and through,” Darling said. “He would do that first minute of the game against any team. He’s such a team guy, and that’s not an easy guy to go up and stand in front of a slapshot from. P.K. has a great shot. So, you know, it was awesome by him.”
Hurricanes coach Bill Peters called it the best-played game between Carolina and an opponent this season, but saved his highest praise for his penalty killers.
“I got an unbelievable respect for guys that do that, play that role,” Peters said. “You look at that game coming down the stretch — they went down to three (lines), we went down to three. So Nordy and Krugs haven’t played a whole bunch.
“And the next thing you know that game is on the line and you tap ’em and they go out and execute like that.”
The unique 1 p.m. start time didn’t seem to slow either team, as the Hurricanes and Predators jockeyed back and forth for control.
Carolina’s fourth line opened the scoring 3:37 of the first, with Kruger zipping a two-line pass to spring Josh Jooris. Jooris shrugged off Mattias Ekholm, deked to his backhand and slid the puck through Saros’ five hole for his third goal of the year.
Nashville answered with 4:24 left in the first, tying the game when Viktor Arvidsson dangled around Noah Hanifin coming down the left wing and beat Darling over his left shoulder.
The Predators took the lead just past the midway point of the game, converting on their first power play opportunity when Ekholm’s point shot hit at least one Carolina player and got past Darling for a 2-1 Nashville lead.
Just over a minute later, Victor Rask — playing his second game after being a healthy scratch for two games earlier in the week — got his first point since Nov. 2.
Hanifin’s point shot was redirected in the slot by Elias Lindholm, and Rask crashed the net and knocked in the loose puck to Saros’ right to tie the game at 11:37 of the second.
“It’s tough when you do that, you make those decisions,” Peters said of scratching Rask for two games. “And he ended up plus-3 (Friday) and … was plus-1 again tonight with a goal and and an assist, right? So we need that out of him. We need that each and every night, and that’s part of being a pro. He’s a big part of what we do, and we need him.”
It looked like Carolina got the game-winner 5:49 into the third. The struggling second power play unit broke through when Justin Williams knocked down a Derek Ryan shot in front and backhanded the puck past a scrambling Saros for a 3-2 lead.
Then Darling failed to squeeze a shot in his glove and Smith tied it setting up the overtime and shootout.
After both Brock McGinn for Carolina and Nashville newcomer Kyle Turris were stopped in the first round, Peters went to his two Finns, Aho and Teravainen, against Saros.
“I said to Sea Bass, I said, ‘You own this guy?’” Peters said. “And he said, ‘Yeah, I do.’ … And then [Teravainen] said the same.”
After Aho scored, Darling denied Filip Forsberg. Then Teravainen ended it with a top-shelf backhand, snapping a two-game slide and putting Carolina back in an early-season six-team scrum for three Eastern Conference playoff positions.
“It’s time to go punch in and get some points and get it to work,” Williams said.