The Hurricanes won their series with the Predators with a 4-3 overtime win Thursday into Friday in Nashville. Sebastian Aho had two redirection goals, including the game-winner, and Brock McGinn and Dougie Hamilton also scored for Carolina. Alex Nedeljkovic made 24 saves to earn the win in net.
The Hurricanes will next face the Tampa Bay Lightning, last year’s Stanley Cup champion, in the second round. Games 1 & 2 will be held in Raleigh at a date and time to be determined.
1. For the fourth straight game, the Predators and Hurricanes went to overtime in their best-of-seven first-round series. In Game 5, Carolina rallied to tie the game and won at 2:03 of the first overtime.
They bested that effort in Game 6. After Aho won a faceoff in the Nashville end, the puck got to Jaccob Slavin on the left boards. He shot on Juuse Saros (27 saves) and Aho deflected the shot just enough to fool the Predators goalie and end the series.
The goal was the second of the game for Aho and his fifth in the series. Only Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon, who had six goals in the Avalanche’s four-game sweep of St. Louis, has more this postseason, and three of his were empty-net goals to one for Aho.
2. It took some desperation for the Hurricanes to shake off their funk and rally from behind again. While it was Aho, Hamilton and Slavin who showed up on the score sheet as the heroes, Jordan Martinook was the one who dragged Carolina back into the fight.
His impassioned second-period speech captured by the TV cameras included him imploring his teammates to “figure it out” and pointing to the scoreboard and saying “look at the shots,” along with a couple unpublishable words.
Jordan Martinook with an impassioned message for his teammates after falling behind 3-1. On his next shift, he drew a penalty and the Hurricanes scored on the power play to make it 3-2. pic.twitter.com/2Er5IEyB9G
— Brett Finger (@brettfinger) May 28, 2021
He then put his money where his mouth was on the ice, drawing an interference penalty on Matt Benning on his next shift that led to Carolina’s power play goal, Aho’s first of the night that got the Hurricanes within a goal at 13:34 of the second.
Then in the third period, Martinook drilled Erik Haula with a thunderous hit and then, in the same shift, hit Roman Josi against the boards in the Nashville end and knocked last year’s Norris Trophy winner out of the game.
“What can you say about Marty, he’s just a great leader on and off the ice,” McGinn said. “I think he plays a hard game, and I think that’s what you need in playoffs, I think you need those guys to go out there and crash and bang.
“And I think as the series goes on, that weighs on players, and I think they’ll think twice about going and getting that puck. So I think just Marty talking to the guys, just calming the bench down, I think got us back to our game there.”
3. In the end, the Hurricanes’ depth is what won them the series, and it was no clearer than in the disparity in each team’s play when they were without their top defensemen.
The Hurricanes lost two of three without Jaccob Slavin in the lineup, but all three games went to overtime. Losing Josi, however, was the straw that broke the Predators’ back. The ice tilted severely in Carolina’s favor once Josi was knocked out, and the Hurricanes’ best players took over. Nashville was outshot 12-6 the rest of the way, allowing the tying and winning goals as the Hurricanes seemed to finally wear down the resilient Predators.
Number To Know
16 — Shots on goal for the Hurricanes in the third period, more than they had the rest of the game. Carolina totaled 14 in the opening two frames (nine in the first, five in the second) and had just one shot — the game-winning goal — in the brief overtime.
They Said It
“Your best players have to be your best players. And obviously tonight, we struggled for a while, but then they took over and that’s what has to happen.”
— Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour
Jaccob Slavin & Dougie Hamilton, Hurricanes defensemen — Slavin had the backdoor pass to Hamilton on the game-tying goal in the third period and then helped finish off the series with a point shot that was redirected in the net by Aho just 66 seconds into overtime. His presence the entire game, however, seemed to stabilize Carolina’s lineup from top to bottom.
“He goes in the lineup, we didn’t lose,” Brind’Amour said. “He’s that important to this team … He makes everybody around him better. And he plays with Dougie most of the time, it’s only gonna make Dougie better. So it’s a great pair. (Slavin) was obviously the difference-maker.”
As Brind’Amour mentioned, Hamilton also played with more poise and confidence. His tying goal in the third came off a set play that saw Slavin head up the boards and sent a cross-ice pass to Hamilton on the far side of the net. It was a play the Hurricanes had been waiting to use.
“We saw that, actually, a while ago, and it was just, it’s pretty tough to pull it off,” Hamilton said of the hole in Nashville’s coverage on the defensive zone faceoff. “I saw their guys were tired, they’d been out there for a while, and I told (Slavin), ‘Let’s run it,’ It worked out perfectly, and we couldn’t have done it any better.”
Hamilton also had the point shot Aho redirected for the Hurricanes’ second-period power play goal, giving him his first multipoint postseason game since Game 6 against the Capitals in 2019.
Vincent Trocheck, Hurricanes center — While Brady Skjei and Brett Pesce had disappointing performances in the first two periods, it was Trocheck who never really got on track for the game. He finished with two shots attempts (one on goal) in 17:37 and had just a 27.78% possession night. He also wasn’t on the ice for a 5-on-5 shot attempt, according to NaturalStatTrick.com.