NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The domination started almost as soon as the game did.
In a complete reversal of their last game, the Carolina Hurricanes exploded for four goals in the first 6 1/2 minutes Thursday night, then buttoned things up defensively to salt away a 4-1 victory over the Nashville Predators at sold-out Bridgestone Arena.
It might have been expected that Carolina (15-12-7) would come out with a fury after suffering an 8-1 loss Tuesday in Toronto. But what the Hurricanes did before the first TV timeout was still stunning, given that it happened against an opponent which is normally difficult to beat at home.
Derek Ryan, Elias Lindholm, Noah Hanifin and Victor Rask all scored in the Hurricanes‘ first six shots, leading to the second-quickest hook of goalie Pekka Rinne’s career. It was also the second-quickest four goals since the Hurricanes franchise moved from Hartford 20 years ago.
“That’s the type of game we don’t want to talk about any more,” Ryan said of Tuesday night. “This was a good way to bounce back. It shows some character and some resiliency, and I’m proud of the boys for doing that.”
Ryan got the onslaught started 37 seconds into the first period, seven seconds after Nick Bonino went off for hooking. Driving to the net, Ryan tipped Hanifin’s centering pass from the left circle by Rinne on the Hurricanes‘ first shot for his seventh goal.
The second shot also found the net. Lindholm got a stick on Jeff Skinner’s long-range wrister from the top of the right circle for his 10th goal at 3:11 as some in the crowd of 17,492 groaned.
It took Carolina less than two minutes to make it 3-0. With Ryan Johansen in the box for roughing, Hanifin ripped a slapper from the left point that struck the skate of Nashville captain Roman Josi and beat Rinne for Hanifin’s eighth goal.
Rask chased Rinne at 6:29 when his soft backhander from the right boards took a weird hop on its way to the goalie, then caromed off his upper arm and into the net.
“We obviously caught some breaks on some of the goals,” said Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward. “Just goes to show that it happens to the best of us, even Pekka.”
Predators coach Peter Laviolette said the breaks went against Rinne (18-6-3) during his brief stint.
“Three redirects and the fourth one hit the ice and took a funny bounce,” Laviolette said. “None of them were clean.”
Laviolette inserted backup Juuse Saros, who saved all 26 shots he faced to give Nashville (21-9-4) a chance to rally. But Ward (7-2-1) kept the audience hushed by stopping 28 of 29 shots.
Kevin Fiala’s tip of a P.K. Subban slapper at 15:33 of the first period was the Predators’ only goal. It was the 10th goal for Fiala and marked the fifth consecutive game in which he’s lit the lamp. Fiala also extended his points streak to nine straight games, the longest current stretch in the NHL.
However, Ward ceded nothing else. He stoned Viktor Arvidsson at the goalmouth about five minutes into the second period during a power play. His teammates helped Ward kill nearly three minutes of power-play time — including 56 seconds of 5-on-3 action in which Nashville couldn’t even get a shot to net — late in the second.
“My guys ate a lot of rubber for me,” Ward said. “This place was waiting to erupt if they had scored again, but we managed the game real well.”
It was the first time in 17 home games that Nashville was held under two goals. More disturbing to Laviolette was another slow start and another spate of penalties.
The Predators have been outshot 62-28 in the first period of the last four games. They also took six minors and a 10-minute misconduct, upping their league-leading penalty total to 494 minutes.
“It will be addressed,” Laviolette said of the penalty trouble.
NOTES: Nashville GM David Poile said in a radio interview that D Ryan Ellis, who hasn’t played this season as he recovers from a knee injury suffered during the Stanley Cup Finals in June, could make his season debut Jan. 2 at Vegas. … Skinner needs one goal to pass former Whalers winger Pat Verbeek (192) for seventh place in franchise history. … The Hurricanes scratched D Haydn Fleury and RW Josh Jooris. … Predators scratches were RW Craig Smith (lower-body injury), D Anthony Bitetto and LW Cody McLeod. Miikka Salomaki drew into the lineup for Smith.