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About Last Night: Staal’s heroics help Canes grind out win over Preds

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The Carolina Hurricanes beat the Nashville Predators 3-2 in overtime Tuesday night, thanks in big part to a great night from captain Jordan Staal.

NHL: Nashville Predators at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Hurricanes won their sixth straight game Tuesday night in PNC Arena, overcoming a slow start to beat the Nashville Predators 3-2 in overtime thanks to a wonderful night from captain Jordan Staal.

The Canes went down 2-0 just over the midway point of the second period, but they hung around and fought back to force overtime, where Staal slotted the game winner past Pekka Rinne.

Here are some thoughts on the Canes gutsy win over Nashville:

Finding ways to win games

The saying goes that good teams just find ways to win games. It may be a bit cliche, but it’s certainly a truth when it comes to the 2021 Carolina Hurricanes.

For definitely not the first time this season, or for that matter during this winning streak, the Canes just found a way to win a game Tuesday night against the Predators, overcoming a dangerously slow start and awful overtime period to come away with two points against Nashville.

Apart from some good penalty killing (more on that later), Carolina didn’t do much right through the game’s opening 34 minutes or so. The Hurricanes trailed 2-0 after a Ryan Johansen goal 13:37 into the middle frame, and at that point the 2-0 tally was honestly a fortunate one for a Canes team that just didn’t have it out of the gate.

But this team, as it has already done so many times this year, dug in and found a way to get two points. It’s the mark of a great team, that ability to win when you’re not playing your best, and it has been something that has helped this Carolina team get off to the best start in franchise history.

Even on this six-game winning streak it’s fair to say that Carolina has yet to play its best hockey this season. For a team that is now 18-6-1 and is firmly in the ever-changing race atop the Central Division standings, that’s a pretty scary thought.

Oh Captain, My Captain

One of the biggest reasons for the Canes finding a way to win this game was the play of Staal, who had maybe his best game of an already incredible season. Staal scored the Canes’ opener on the power play in the second period to cut a 2-0 Nashville lead to 2-1, and he followed that up in overtime with the game winner.

In a game where Carolina needed someone to step up and take charge, it was the captain who answered the call. Staal was the Hurricanes’ best player on the ice, and it wasn’t particularly close. He led the team with six shots, had Carolina’s most high-danger chances with four, led the way in expected goals, had three hits and won 20 of his 28 faceoffs on the night.

When the Canes desperately needed a goal to stay afloat it was Staal who delivered, netting the power-play goal off a beautiful feed from Sebastian Aho following a dirty, dirty hit by Dante Fabbro on Brock McGinn.

As the Canes and Predators went to overtime it was all Nashville in the extra period, until suddenly it wasn’t. Staal, coming off a great defensive play from Jaccob Slavin, converted himself on a two-on-one break to send Nashville back to its hotel with a loss and Canes fans home happy.

Staal has been a revelation this year, and he really lifted the Canes up when they needed him the most Tuesday night. That’s what captains do, and he showed on the ice Tuesday why he’s so deserving of that ‘C’ on his chest.

A really good penalty kill

Apart from the extra number in the win column and the night from Staal, the other big bright spot for the Hurricanes Tuesday was the work of the penalty kill.

The Canes’ penalty kill was 5 for 5 in the overtime win, shutting down Nashville’s power play in all three periods. In 8:44 of 5-on-4 time for Nashville, the Predators put just five shots on net, created just three-high danger chances and had less than one expected goal for (with the even more important zero actual goals for). Nashville really didn’t do much danger anywhere during its 5-on-4 time.

Natural Stat Trick

Carolina’s penalty kill was all over the Predators, who simply could not take advantage of a pretty decent chunk of a man advantage. The Canes’ PK has been as good as it has been this year over the last few games, as Carolina has successfully killed off its last 11 penalties dating back to the second period of last Thursday’s win over Detroit.

Along with the top-four defenseman, led by Brady Skjei and Brett Pesce, who both played over five minutes of penalty kill time Tuesday, it was Staal who was the Canes’ busiest forward penalty killer, adding to the already impressive list of accomplishments he had in the win.

The penalty kill, though maybe busier than Rod Brind’Amour would like, was a huge strength once again for the Canes.