The Hurricanes suffered a heartbreaking loss in Friday’s Game 3, losing in double overtime on a goal by Nashville’s Matt Duchene in a 5-4 decision at Bridgestone Arena. The best-of-seven first-round series now favors Carolina 2-1. Sebastian Aho, Jordan Staal, Vincent Trocheck and Brett Pesce scored for the Hurricanes in the loss.
1. Once a playoff game gets deep into overtime, the difference is usually either a mistake leading to the winning goal or a standout individual effort.
Friday’s Game 3 had both. Roman Josi’s aerial flip into the Carolina end eluded defenseman Jake Bean — who tried to swat the puck out of the air — and ended up on Duchene’s stick. The Predators’ underachieving $8 million man evaded a poke check by Alex Nedeljkovic (49 saves) and backhanded the puck into the top right corner for the game-winner.
“It’s tough,” Pesce said of the loss. “We worked really hard, had a ton of chances to finish that game. I’ve been on this side of it. Obviously, the last double OT (in 2019’s Game 7 in Washington) came out in our favor. It’s not a good feeling, but every team goes through adversity. It’s a long playoff run, and I think this is gonna make us stronger.”
2. The Hurricanes seemed to have shaken off their penalty woes by not taking any in the opening period (other than a delayed call negated by a Nashville goal). But Carolina did more thinking inside the box in the second period, taking four penalties and finally allowing a Predators power play goal when Nashville had a 5-on-3 with Warren Foegele and Staal off for penalties.
Fortunately for Carolina, the Predators’ Mattias Ekholm took two penalties in succession during the second frame, and Trocheck’s impossible angle goal over Juuse Saros’ (52 saves) right shoulder had given the Hurricanes a 3-2 lead before Mikael Granlund’s two-man advantage goal tied it.
But the penalty ledger was again lopsided in the third, with Carolina getting called for two infractions to Nashville’s zero, plus the Predators got the lone power play in overtime at 11:40 of the second extra frame.
In all, Nashville had eight power plays — including the aforementioned 5-on-3 — to the Hurricanes’ three. The Predators also held a 7-3 edge in Game 2. The disparity led to Carolina captain Jordan Staal giving a “no comment on that.” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour was much more candid.
“We played our butts off,” he said. “Played great. Played hard. You know, we’re playing a great team. And to me, I didn’t say it (to the team), but we’re in a battle. And like I said, Nashville is a phenomenal team. But we’re also fighting the refs. That’s plain and simple.
“You can’t tell me two games in a row, we get seven and eight penalties and they get three? When the game’s this even? It’s not right. It’s not right. And I give my guys tons of credit for just sticking in, going and playing their butts off and (we) had a good chance to win.
“I mean, we still had a chance to win, coming back. Not right. Two overtimes? A knick-knack penalty when there was stuff going on all over? (It) just flipped the momentum and they score the next shift after because we’re out of rotation.
“That’s not how it should go. So, I didn’t tell him that, but I’m proud of my group because they just battled.”
Brind’Amour was given a $25,000 fine for criticizing the officials after Game 1 of Carolina’s series against Boston last season, and it also included a conditional fine of another $25,000 on top of any other discipline if he had “similar inappropriate behavior” in the following year (through Aug. 12, 2021).
Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon paid last year’s fine and tacked on an additional $17 — in honor of the number Brind’Amour wore as a player — for good measure. Brind’Amour and/or Dundon might be writing out another check or two soon.
3. Brind’Amour was again forced to rely heavily on his top defensemen with Jaccob Slavin missing his second straight game. Pesce led the way with 39:27, followed by Brady Skjei (38:21) and Dougie Hamilton (36:56). Bean (27:19) and Jani Hakanpaa (26:51) played career-high minutes, and Max Lajoie — playing his first game with the Hurricanes — logged 16:54.
Welcome to the team, kid.
“He didn’t look out of place, and the first couple shifts there he had a couple of chances to score right away. Ripped one right off the goalie’s head there. He looked great. And again, that’s a tough spot to throw him in, but I thought he was good.”
“Yeah, the kid played really well.”
Number To Know
10:21, 5:10 — The average amount of power play time per game for the Predators and Hurricanes, respectively, through three games of their first-round series. Nashville has scored just once in 17 opportunities — the Preds’ 5-on-3 goal Friday — while Carolina has converted at a 20% clip (2 of 10).
They Said It
“I thought the boys battled hard. We were on the wrong side of this one, but we’re going to come back with even better effort next game.”
— Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal
Brett Pesce, Hurricanes defenseman — On top of scoring the tying goal with 3:21 left in regulation, he anchored the Carolina defense and penalty kill all night.
“With a big guy out, man, has he stepped up and played well,” Staal said of Pesce taking on even more responsibility with Slavin missing from the lineup. “He’s done everything. So, another great game by him, and he battled hard. I mean, you gotta love it. He’s awesome. He’s gonna keep leading our group back there.”
Brind’Amour has long sung the praises of Pesce, and he didn’t stop Friday.
“He’s just been phenomenal,” the coach said. “He’s been like that from day one. I think just now, in a situation like this, it just gets magnified. You get to see it that much more.”
Martin Necas, Hurricanes forward — The winger was critical of his performance late in the season, and Brind’Amour agreed. While Necas didn’t talk to the media and Brind’Amour wasn’t asked about him, chances are they’d both assess his game Friday similarly.
Necas — along with center Trocheck and left wing Nino Niederreiter — struggled to gain traction all night, and Necas and Niederreiter were on the ice for three goals against, including Duchene’s game-winner. Necas was credited with just two shot attempts (both on goal) in more than 23 minutes of ice time. He was part of Carolina’s penalty kill, which continued to thrive, but he was barely noticeable most of the night.