In their 56th and final game of the 2021 regular season, the Carolina Hurricanes brought a very second semester senior year vibe.
The Canes rested several lineup regulars in what was effectively a glorified preseason game, and fell 5-0 to their upcoming first-round opponent. Predators goalie Pekka Rinne picked up 24 saves for the shutout.
The most important thing for the Canes was getting through this game without further injury, and they passed that test. Nothing else about Monday night’s result with a shorthanded lineup will have any bearing in round one.
Several lineup regulars on each side sat out of this one. The Hurricanes got Jordan Martinook back following a nine-game absence, but took an opportunity to rest some banged-up players in Jordan Staal, Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, Dougie Hamilton and Andrei Svechnikov.
The Predators’ absence list was even lengthier, with Alexandre Carrier, Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, Mikael Granlund, Ben Harpur, Erik Haula, Calle Jarnkrok, Roman Josi, Luke Kunin, Juuse Saros and Colton Sissons all inactive.
Following a good shift in the offensive zone for the line of Nino Niederreiter, Vincent Trocheck and Martin Necas, the Canes drew the game’s first power play about two minutes in. While several of the aforementioned absent regulars play on the power play, the man advantage got the team off to the opposite of the start it wanted, with an offensive zone turnover leading to a shorthanded breakaway for Rocco Grimaldi that put Nashville up 1-0.
Nashville wasted little time doubling its lead, as a slick finish for Matt Duchene made it 2-0 Predators just 1:38 later.
Max McCormick continued to answer the bell for the Canes and looked to make an argument for staying in the lineup, dropping the gloves with Tyler Lewington after a high hit on Morgan Geekie by the latter.
The second period didn’t start any better for the Canes, as Duchene picked up a rebound down low and snapped it home for his second of the game to make it 3-0. Nashville continued to completely out play the Canes as the middle frame went along, and pushed its lead to 4-0 with a Ryan Johnansen power-play goal with about eight minutes left, snapping a seven-game streak of the Canes not allowing a power-play goal.
The third period started similarly to the first, with Tanner Jeannot giving the Preds a 5-0 lead with their second shorthanded goal of the game, beating Jake Gardiner to a loose puck in what was a rough outing for the veteran defenseman.
Rinne continued to stand tall in the third period, robbing Geekie point blank to keep the Canes off the scoreboard.
Next up for the Canes is round one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. As the Central Division Champion, this team is guaranteed home ice through at least the first two rounds. The first-round opponent will be a familiar one, as the Hurricanes and Predators will square off for the first time in the playoffs. There’s no word on a date for game one, though speculation is it will be sometime next weekend.
Stay tuned to Canes Country for full coverage and analysis of the Canes’ upcoming first-round series.