It was an uphill battle for the Canes who had to overcome three Nashville leads and fight not only the Predators but the officials as well as the team once again was in constant flux in and out of the penalty box.
After the game, head coach Rod Brind’Amour as well as Jordan Staal and Brett Pesce spoke to the media via Zoom. Here’s what they had to say.
On the message he sends to the team after that game: We played our butts off. Played great. Played hard. We’re playing a great team. I didn’t say it, but we’re in a battle. Like I said, Nashville is a phenomenal team, but we’re also fighting the refs. Plain and simple. You can’t tell me two games in a row we get seven, eight penalties and they get three. And when the game’s this even? That’s not right. That’s not right. I give my guys tons of credit for just sticking with it and going and playing their butts off and having a good chance to win. We still had a chance to win coming back. It wasn’t right. Two overtimes and a knick-knack penalty when there was stuff going on all over the ice? It just flipped the momentum and they scored on the next shift after because we were out of rotation. That’s not how it should go. I didn’t tell them that, but I’m proud of my group because they just battled.
On Brett Pesce: He’s been phenomenal. Especially now with that huge hole back there with Jaccob not playing. I mean it’s obvious. He’s having to pick up the minutes and Skjei and all those guys back there too. We’re putting some kids in situations they probably wouldn’t be in because of the injury, but he’s just been phenomenal. He’s been like that from day one. It’s just now in a situation like this it just gets magnified and you get to see it that much more.
On anticipating any lineup changes with the minutes played tonight and the short turnaround for Game 4: I don’t know about Jaccob. Obviously hope so, but we’ll know at game time on that one. As far as changes to the lineup, I don’t know. We’ve got to look at it and decide. Everybody played their asses off tonight. Only way we’d take [Nedeljkovic] out is if he got overworked. That’d be the only reason.
On Alex Nedeljkovic: He was awesome. He played a phenomenal game. With all the power plays they had and all the stress, like with all the shots. He was just very on it I thought. He just battled and I can’t say enough about him. Kept us in the game and especially early when we weren’t great. We were on our heels a little and then he made some huge saves to just give us a chance to maybe win that one.
On Maxime Lajoie: He did great. Didn’t look out of place. In the first couple of shifts there he had a couple of chances to score right away. Ripped one right off the goalie's head. So he looked great. Again, that’s a tough spot to throw him in, but I thought he was good.
On dealing with the tension of it being a one-goal game all night: It’s playoff hockey. It was a grind of a game. They’re gonna be tight. That’s what you wanna play. I thought the boys battled hard. We were on the wrong side of this one, but we’re going to come back with a better effort next game.
On the penalty disparity between the two teams through three games: No comment on that one.
On Brett Pesce’s impact on and off the ice: The guy’s been an absolute animal. All year, really. With a big guy out, man has he stepped up and played well. He’s done everything. Another great game by him. He battled hard and you gotta love it. He’s awesome. He’s going to keep leading our group back there and we’ll find a way to get a win.
On coming back with shorter rest with it being an afternoon game: We’re playing against the same team. They played the same minutes that we did. I think our group is going to rebound with a better effort, no matter how long there is between the games.
On what the intermissions between overtimes were like: I was getting stitches, so I was out of there for a little bit. You’re just getting calories in you, getting fluids. Just talking about what we want to do out there and how we want to play. I thought the boys battled hard. It could’ve gotten either way in overtime. I thought we had some great chances as well. It’s onto the next shift and the next play, and we’re going to go from there.
On Max Lajoie: The kid played really well. He skated well and made the right decisions when he had the puck. He played steady, and that’s what you want from him coming in. He showed some great poise and good skating ability. He looked like a really good NHL player out there.
On playing 39 minutes in a game and the hardships of how it finished: It’s tough. I thought we worked really hard. We had a ton of chances to finish that game. I’ve been on this side of it, the last double OT went in our favor. It’s not a good feeling, but every team goes through adversity. It’s a long playoff run and I think this is going to make us stronger.
On having so many penalty kills and having to play so many minutes because of it: I don’t mind playing that much. Obviously, 39 is a lot, but you don’t really think of how many minutes you play. You’re just so into the game and you get into a rhythm. It’s more mental when you get to that. Roddy always says don’t take a breath. Unfortunately, they got a bounce. It happens. It just is what it is.