Cary, NC — With 5:06 left in the second overtime, Matt Duchene hauled down a 60’ lob pass from Roman Josi, got by Jake Bean and after Alex Nedeljkovic missed a poke check, Duchene put the puck top shelf to give the Nashville Predators a 5-4 win, cutting the Canes series lead to 2-1.
For the second game in a row, Jaccob Slavin did not play, leaving a huge hole but mega credit to the entire D-corps, especially Brady Skjei and Brett Pesce, who each played nearly 40 minutes.
Playing in his first game for the Canes and first since 2019 was Maxime Lajoie who the Canes acquired in January in a trade with Ottawa for Clark Bishop. Playing in his first NHL game in nearly 2 years, with a new team and being a playoff game, his nerves had to be in overdrive and considering the circumstances, he had an excellent game.
Nashville Finds the Net First
Earlier in the day, Rod Brind’Amour said he expected Nashville to feed off their fans like the Canes did in the first two games at home with the Caniacs in full throttle, and come out with all guns locked and loaded. Not that Roddy has a future at the State Fair with tarot cards, nor doubt Nashville heard nor cared what Roddy said, but the Preds were throwing anything and everything towards Ned.
The Canes had the first attack in the Preds end with Andrei Svechnikov getting off 3 shots within 5 seconds with Juuse Saros blocking each one. The next few shifts saw each team getting solid looks at each goal with Ned and Saros both looking strong. On one rush in the Canes end, Dougie Hamilton blocked a shot by Tanner Jeannot.
Jeannot picked up the loose puck and rimmed it all the way from the far half boards, behind the net up to Ryan Ellis on the right point. Ellis settled the puck then seeing a traffic jam in front of the Canes crease, flung the puck, hoping for a tip-in but instead, the puck had eyes and hit the back of the net as Ned’s view was completely blocked.
Both teams were settling into their game plans which apparently was responsibly forechecking and staying out of the penalty box. Hitting was also noticeably lower as was the intensity of the hits.
Aho Opens Canes Scoring
Later in the period, Jani Hakanpaa was ending his shift and dumped the puck deep into the Preds’ end. Teuvo Teravainen forced Roman Josi to rim the puck behind the net for a pass up to Duchene along the near half boards. Brady Skjei jumped up to knock Duchene from getting possession.
Sebastian Aho filled in the left point for Skjei, got the puck, and in one motion—mostly to keep the puck in play—slung it towards the net, surprising Saros, and it went in to tie the game, 1-1.
If there’s one Achilles heel for the Canes all season, it’s been the last two minutes of a period. Seems that issue is continuing into the playoffs.
After an attack in the Preds’ end, Mattias Ekholm had the puck along his own half boards as teams were making a change. Ekholm saw Filip Forsberg camped at the Canes’ blue line and sent a 100’ pass onto Forsberg’s tape. Hamilton was right there but Forsberg faked left and went right with Dougie slashing Forsberg’s stick.
Forsberg managed to keep possession and went to the net with Hamilton trying to tie him up. Ned attempted a poke check but Forsberg slid the puck in the short side for a late-period Preds lead.
Staal, Trocheck Score Beauties
Early in the second period, Warren Foegele intercepted the puck in his own end, whether it was a shout-out or set play, Foegs quickly passed up to Jordan Staal in the neutral zone. With a Predator on both sides of Jordo, he used his newfound speed, kept the puck well in front of him as he went to the net and wristed a shot stick side to tie the game at 2.
The first period was technically penalty-free although the Forsberg goal happened on a potential penalty by Dougie, the second period started having the refs play a part in the game’s outcome. Steve Lorentz got called for a delay of game when replays showed the puck went off the boards. Hakanpaa got called for hooking on what has to be the weakest hooking call in the history of the NHL.
Ekholm got back-to-back penalties with the Canes not looking good on the first powerplay but connected on the second on an unbelievable shot by Vincent Trocheck, sniping one in from the goal line 15’ away that nicked in off Saros’ neck and shoulder.
A minute later Foegs flipped the puck over the glass and 30 seconds later Jordo tripped Luke Kunin for 90 seconds of a 5-on-3. Mikael Granlund converted on the 2-man advantage which was no fault of the defense, just good passing and set up by the Preds for their first powerplay goal of the series.
Pesce First Playoff Goal Sends Game Into OT
With it all tied up at 3 a piece going into the third, coaches had to stress “no mistakes,” meaning thinking on every shift, every play, be sure of every pass and don’t get a penalty.
Jake Bean got an early call for hooking which, after reviewing the replay several times, I’m wondering what angle the refs had to make that call. Pesch and Sjkei were animals on that kill with Brock McGinn paying the price several times with gutsy blocks.
Right after that powerplay with the puck in the Canes end, in a similar play as in the first period, Ellis had the puck on the right point. Seeing that Trocheck lost his footing while covering Ryan Johansen in front of Ned, Ellis passed to Johansen who made a sweet tip in to give the Preds the 4-3 lead. Smart play to take advantage of an opportunity.
The teams exchanged one more penalty each for the rest of the period with both man-down units coming up strong. Late in the period, who else but Pesce gave the Canes life. Svech started the play with a steal at the Preds’ blue line dumping the puck low. Fishy ragged Josi keeping the puck available that Turbo snared and passed up to Pesch on the left point.
Pesch sent a slap shot to the net that Saros blocked with the puck staying alive. Fishy grabbed the rebound, rimmed the puck back to Turbo in the near corner who quickly passed back up to Pesch. Pesch took a couple of strides to the center and seeing Svech, Fishy, and 2 defenders creating traffic, wristed a shot that avoided everyone including Saros to tie the game at 4-4 with 3:21 left in regulation.
Both teams tried to play cautious for the remaining time but the natural instinct of competition made the final minutes still exciting. The first OT saw the Canes with more possession and shots with the Bridgestone Arena oddly relatively quiet. Never would that happen at the PNC Arena.
The Preds fans saw the Canes taking control and it was a concern. The Canes got off 13 good shots while the Preds mustered 10 with both goalies stopping everything. The refs made the wise decision to let the players play with no penalties in the OT which is quite common.
Duchene Wins it in Double OT
Into the second overtime period, which is 20 minutes each in playoff territory, things again started to get chippy and the fans were still relatively quiet.
At 11:40 of the second OT, newcomer Lajoie got called for a legitimate, but very weak, hooking call. The Canes killed off that penalty but it was shortly after that, that the bottom fell out for the Canes. After a Canes attack, Rosi had the puck deep in his end when he eyed Duchene gaining speed in the neutral zone. He sent a high lob pass that would make Tom Brady proud which Duchene tapped down away from Beaner.
Duchene went behind Beaner to go in on Ned before going top shelf one for the game-winner. At the post-game press conference, when asked about the second game in a row with disproportional penalty calls, with the majority in each game not in the Canes’ favor, Hamilton had a sly smile and simply said “no comment.”
Roddy’s answer was not as subtle as he said something is drastically wrong. Little ticky-tack penalties are called and some in OT that mess up the proper shifts that result in goals. All true and hopefully after last year’s post-season comments that cost him $25,000, he knows how far or what to say. He knows his team played well enough to win and hates it the officiating played a factor in the outcome.
The next game is Sunday afternoon at 2:30 and with luck, Slavin will be ready to go.
All the Cary news for the informed Cary citizen. Subscribe by email.