It took overtime for the fourth straight game to determine a winner, but for the second time in three days the Carolina Hurricanes found themselves on the right side of the extra period – pushing past the Nashville Predators 4-3 late Thursday night into Friday morning to clinch the first round series of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Things seemed to mirror the last few contests as Nashville jumped out to a fast start scoring the game’s first goal in the first two minutes of action as Nick Cousins scored off the redirection. The response was strong from the Canes as Brock McGinn scored his third goal of the series with an impressive push, cashing in at the 4:21 mark. Things remained tied at 1-1 heading into the first intermission.
On cue, the Predators continued their fast starts – breaking the tie with a Mikael Granlund goal just 1:13 into the second period. Nashville controlled most the period, applying pressure and eliminating Carolina’s top line. While doing so, the Predators were able to create a rare two-goal cushion with a power play goal from Ryan Johansen at the 7:32 point to go ahead 3-1. With things again looking not to bright, Aho converted a pass from Dougie Hamilton for a power play goal with just over seven minutes left in the period to trim the Nashville lead to 3-2 – providing a little life into the Canes who headed into the locker room lucky to be down by just one goal.
The third period was almost all Carolina. The Hurricanes threw multiple sure goal shots at Nashville goalie Juuse Saros who made one spectacular save after another. Just as when it looked as if Saros would be able to steal the game – forcing a series deciding game seven, Hamilton tallied his first goal of the series, crashing the net beating Saros tying the game at three with 6:01 remaining in regulation. The Canes kept the pressure going, but were unable to convert any chances – sending the game to overtime.
As things continued to mirror the previous games, Carolina wasted little time converting in the extra stanza as Jaccob Slavin received the puck off a face-off win; throwing the puck in front the net, allowing Aho to get a piece of the shot, sending the puck into the net and the Hurricanes into the second round.
Up next for the Hurricanes? The defending champion Tampa Bay Lighting who defeated the Florida Panthers 4-2 in their first round matchup. The Hurricanes will have home ice during the series with game one information TBD.