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Hurricanes 3, Predators 2: Refs reign in Raleigh

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This game was a mess of zebra-clad mayhem.

Nashville Predators v Carolina Hurricanes - Game Five Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images

Tonight, the Nashville Predators and the Carolina Hurricanes battled in Raleigh in a crucial game five. If Nashville managed a win on the road, the series would head back to the Music City and the intimidating Bridgestone Arena crowd with a chance for the Preds to close things out. What happened, who stood out, and where will the matchup go from here? All that and more below.

First Period

Nashville kicked things off with some quality scoring chances, but the Preds were unable to get an Eeli Tolvanen shot from the low slot past Nedeljkovic’s pads. The Hurricanes pressed with there ever-present forecheck, but Nashville flew through the neutral zone with improved pace and succeeded in a sizable chunk of their entry and exit attempts, a clear improvement that’s been steadily implemented over the course of the series. The Canes looked like they were about to start dictating the flow of the game again, but a remarkably fluky goal that was credited to Yakov Trenin put Nashville up 1-0 instead.

Afterwards, the Hurricanes dominated the chance totals, pushing Nashville’s pace and accruing opportunities from in tight. Andrei Svechnikov challenged Juuse Saros with a sharp angle give-and-go, but the young Finn shut things down. Dougie Hamilton bombarded the diminutive netminder from the point, but again the puck would not go. What finally beat Saros? Well, after a confusing sequence initiated by a Luke Kunin hit that was... questionable, at best, Nashville was assessed two minor penalties from the ensuing kerfuffle, while Carolina only received one. The following power play quickly struck after some slick passing left Martin Necas open for his first tally of the postseason.

Both sides traded blows following the second goal of the game, but neither could penetrate the other’s defense. The first period ended in a tie; fitting for a series that’d been tight the entire way aside from the end of game one in Raleigh.

Second Period

The second period was more of the same, with Carolina controlling shot totals and Nashville getting some dangerous chances despite few attempts. The Predators connected early (53 seconds in, to be precise) on a beautiful saucer pass from Colton Sissons to Yakov Trenin for his second goal of the game off the 2-on-1. Afterwards, the Hurricanes surged yet again, pounding Saros with shots and peppering the low blocker side in particular. Brett Pesce walked the puck in and nearly put it away, but the Juuse was once again loose and prevented a game tying goal.

Later on in the period, Carolina swarmed the net and Jaccob Slavin launched a puck into the traffic. The puck ricocheted off of bodies and sticks before finding its way into the back of the net off the skate of Ryan Johansen. Upon review, Warren Foegele impeded Saros a bit prior to the goal being scored, and the crease was mobbed by Hurricanes; while Roman Josi was clearly responsible for Saros’s inability to get across the crease to stop the puck, John Hynes challenged the play for goaltender interference anyways. Shockingly, the call went Nashville’s way, contrary to the many missed calls prior in the game and missed calls to come in Carolina’s favor. No complaints here, as a play that likely should have been a goal was called back, leaving Rod Brind’Amour fuming on the bench. One can only imagine what his postgame comments will be like.

The top line for Nashville kept generating offense, with the powerful trio of Duchene, Forsberg, and Johansen wreaking havoc in the offensive zone by simply overwhelming the Canes with their strength. After bodying multiple Carolina defenders off the puck, Matt Duchene nearly put home another attempt underneath Nedeljkovic’s blocker, but failed to elevate it enough to result in a tally. The Preds entered the third period with a slim, ill-maintained lead, but in the lead nonetheless.

Third Period

After a lackluster second period in terms of overall play, the Predators improved their offensive and defensive impacts and played even hockey with the Hurricanes. A number of missed calls on Carolina were let go, but that didn’t deter Nashville. Eventually, Warren Foegele was called for a roughing penalty, and the power play got a nice look on a cross-seam pass to Calle Järnkrok that wouldn’t find the back of the net. The top line remained effective, generating some looks from the front of the net, but again nobody could bury an insurance tally.

The Hurricanes eventually broke through with a wraparound goal from Martin Necas, one that caught Ben Harper... taking a nap in front of the net, I guess. The Predators got back up to speed and had a nice chance on the stick on Nick Cousins via a breakaway, but the speedy winger failed to even get a shot off after Nedeljkovic poked the puck away. Despite all of this, the Canes and Preds failed to convert, taking us to yet another overtime. This series is one for the ages.

Overtime

After a few offensive zone possessions, a Mikael Granlund dump in drew a holding penalty on Brady Skjei, one that was notably called after a clear hook and hold was let go. On the subsequent power play, Alex Carrier bumped into Sebastian Aho and was somehow called for interference. A mind boggling penalty call eventually became the propulsion behind Carolina’s first OT winner of the series, off the stick of Jordan Staal. Ouch.

Three Big Things

  1. This was maybe the best game Nashville played in this series, so that’s encouraging as the team heads back to Bridgestone Arena. Even with that in consideration, it’s tough to predict the Preds taking the series when they can’t seem to get things done in Raleigh. The penalty calls really hurt tonight, but the Predators also benefitted greatly from a goal being called back, so the complaints feel a bit moot. That Carrier call was garbage though, particularly when looking at the leadup to it. Aho is clearly looking to flop and draw a call, and the refs bit on it. Will I whinge about this like a certain head coach did? No, but it certainly affected the outcome of this game.
  2. Juuse Saros was great again tonight, but the defensive support in front of him was lackluster on a number of sequences. Ben Harpur shouldn’t play another shift for this team in the postseason after turning into a statue for the millionth time on the Necas goal. If Dante Fabbro has been healthy through all of this when we’re assuming he’s hurt, that’s coaching malpractice by John Hynes. The third pair was unacceptable tonight, and it was almost entirely on the very broad shoulders of the world’s largest mustard colored traffic cone.
  3. It’s time to talk about Alex Carrier seriously. We here at On The Forecheck have always been concerned with the QMJHL product’s NHL ceiling, but he’s certainly been something special in the playoffs so far. Carrier led all Nashville skaters in xGF% at even strength and chipped in quite a bit offensively. For an organization that might have to make some tough decisions at the expansion draft about their blue line, having Carrier adds a wrinkle.

Post Game Tunes

I’ll be in the building on Thursday, so this is a fitting tune.

Things just got tougher, but I’m sure the joint will be rocking for game six. For now folks, good night, good hockey, and as always, go Preds.