With nothing to show from over 191 minutes of hockey in Games 3 and 4, the Carolina Hurricanes will look to regain the series advantage when they host the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night in Raleigh, N.C., in Game 5 of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff matchup.
The series is tied at two games apiece. Carolina won the first two games on home ice before the Predators evened the series on two dramatic double-overtime victories in Nashville.
After Matt Duchene’s goal in the second OT period sealed a 5-4 Predators win in Game 3, it was Luke Kunin’s turn to be the overtime hero in Sunday’s Game 4.
Mikael Granlund’s pass from behind the goal line found a streaking Kunin for the score 16:10 into double overtime, giving Kunin his second goal of the game as Nashville won 4-3.
Kunin almost wasn’t involved in the play due to a broken stick, as he had to skate back to the bench to re-arm himself. Nashville coach John Hynes credited equipment manager Pete Rogers for quickly providing Kunin with a new stick, which allowed the center to slip back into Carolina’s side of the rink.
“I think if you go back through the video, you see (Rogers), he’s high-stepping it back to the stick and gets it right away,” Hynes said. “I do think (Kunin) is coming into the zone a little bit later, so it’s probably a little bit tougher read for their D to see him coming in late. … Tip of the cap to Pete Rogers for sure.”
It was the type of small moment that can decide a close game, even though the Hurricanes dominated the stat sheet. Carolina outshot Nashville 61-43, but Predators goaltender Juuse Saros delivered his second consecutive standout performance.
Saros stopped 58 of 61 shots, setting a franchise record for saves in a postseason or regular-season game. This outing came on the heels of Saros stopping 52 of 56 shots in Game 3.
Since saves became an official NHL statistic in the 1955-56 season, only one other goalie — Curtis Joseph, for the St. Louis Blues in the 1993 playoffs — has made 50 or more saves in consecutive postseason games.
Rather than get frustrated by Saros, Hurricanes forward Jordan Martinook said he believes his team is on the right track.
“We get in on the forecheck, start rumbling around, take pucks to the net. It’s a recipe for success,” said Martinook, who had two assists in Game 4. “We’re wearing them down. … They’re going to score goals, but we need to just stick with what we do and what makes us successful. That’s all we need to do.”
Alex Nedeljkovic stopped 39 of 43 Nashville shots in Game 4. While overshadowed by Saros’ exploits, Nedeljkovic has also been excellent in the series, posting a .928 save percentage and 2.13 goals-against average over the four games.
Carolina defenseman Jaccob Slavin is questionable for Game 5 after missing the past three games with a lower-body injury.
The Predators also might be without a key member of their lineup, as Viktor Arvidsson (upper-body injury) didn’t play in Games 3 or 4.
Game 6 will take place on Thursday in Nashville. If necessary, Game 7 will be in Raleigh on Saturday.
–Field Level Media