The only thing better than one double-overtime playoff game is two double-overtime playoff games.
Well, not for the Carolina Hurricanes, who have watched their 2-0 first-round series lead evaporate after a second straight double OT heartbreaker in Nashville has gotten the Predators right back into this series.
To make matters worse, you could point to one thing on every single goal they allowed and note that it was a very avoidable, dumb mistake that let it happen. Those painful miscues were the difference on Sunday afternoon.
Coming off a devastating finish to game three, game four couldn’t have started much worse for the Hurricanes in Nashville.
Dougie Hamilton turned the puck over at the end of his first shift of the day, and the Predators turned that mistake into an instant goal on their first shot on Alex Nedeljkovic. Ryan Ellis picked off the errant pass, boosted it to Mikael Granlund and Luke Kunin snuck the puck through the legs of Nedeljkovic at the 57-second mark.
Carolina managed to recover in convincing fashion, though. The Canes very quickly got to their game and dominated the possession and the scoring chances through the remainder of the first period.
A pair of stick penalties from the Predators in the first period certainly helped matters for the Hurricanes, who after a poor first power-play attempt started to generate real chances in their second try. Juuse Saros was outstanding early, though, keeping the Canes off the board for most of the first period before one final flurry netted Carolina their first goal of the game.
Martin Necas took the puck blue line-to-blue line with two minutes to go in the period before making a fancy stick move in the slot. He lost the puck, but a number of funky bounces sent the puck into the Nashville net for a game-tying goal.
Vincent Trocheck got credit for the goal, his second in as many games.
The first period ended up being quite lopsided in favor of the Hurricanes, who outshot the Predators 17-5 and controlled 73.24% of the expected goals at 5-on-5.
The second period told a different story from the first period, but it rendered the same outcome.
The first tally again went to the Predators. And again, it was a painfully avoidable mistake that did the Hurricanes in.
A slot chance from Matt Duchene was stopped by Nedeljkovic, but the rookie goalie whiffed on his attempt to cover the puck. He instead knocked it right back out in front of the net and Ryan Johansen collapsed in on the net to bury the rebound and give the Preds a 2-1 lead.
It was a play that closely resembled a debacle from James Reimer during the regular season, except this one obviously had the heightened stakes attached.
Nashville built on that big momentum swing and continued to put the pressure on Carolina through the first half of the period, culminating in a long 2-on-0 rush that forced Nedeljkovic to put the error behind him and make a game-saving stop.
And he came through.
Shortly after that save, the Hurricanes got on the man advantage, regained some momentum, and mounted a lengthy push to close out the second period.
Saros matched the Carolina attack move for move until one shot off the stick of Brock McGinn found its way through traffic, off of the post, and into the back of the net to tie the game at two goals apiece.
Brock McGinn ties the game with this rocket that goes off the post and into the net.— y - Canes Country (@CanesCountry) May 23, 2021
2-2 game through 40 minutes. pic.twitter.com/LzcBhcPiXU
McGinn’s goal marked a very positive end to an even period of hockey that featured good chances either way.
Then the third period happened, and it was a wild one.
On the opening shift of the period, McGinn went flying through the air. And he sent a puck flying through the air whilst doing so to give the Hurricanes their first lead of the game.
Brock McGinn did it to 'em again. This time, he flew through the air and roofed one on Saros.— y - Canes Country (@CanesCountry) May 23, 2021
It's a 3-2 Hurricanes lead early in the third period. pic.twitter.com/JYQhqb4FF5
That lead didn’t last long, though. Hamilton got the gate for tripping shortly after the go-ahead goal, and it took almost all of those two minutes for the Preds to score.
Nick Cousins deflected a shot by Nedeljkovic with just under 30 seconds left on the kill, and just like that the game was tied yet again.
The shifts immediately following the goal were rambunctious, and the Predators thrived amidst the chaos and eventually drew a bad cross-checking penalty from Svechnikov after a whistle in the Carolina zone.
The second time around, the Hurricanes actually killed the penalty, but the drama still surrounded every touch of the puck from the Predators, including the shifts after the kill. Cousins very nearly scored his second goal of the period and gave Nashville the lead, but Nedeljkovic sprawled across the crease and made a huge save with the outstretched right pad to keep the game at 3-3.
The chances continued to pile up for Nashville as the final minutes of regulation time dwindled away, but Nedeljkovic answered the bell with a handful of saves to force the game into overtime.
The Hurricanes started strong in the extra frame, but they couldn’t find the back of the net after a few quality chances were negated by Saros. In a reverse of game three, they got the first man-power advantage in overtime, but they squandered their opportunity to put the game away and failed to even put a shot on the net.
The first overtime finally reached its merciful end, but unfortunately, that meant that there would be another double-overtime. This one ended the same way game three ended.
The Hurricanes managed to get chance after chance in the second OT, but a combination of missed shots, blocked shots, and Saros saves kept the game going and gave the Predators every chance they needed to win their second straight game in this series.
And that’s exactly what they did.
A dump-in from the blue line saw Carolina’s defensive structure to collapse as Hamilton went to cut off the puck behind the net as Pesce left to cover the man receiving the puck. As a result, there was no one in front of the Canes net and Luke Kunin was left wide-open to get the pass from the corner and beat Nedeljkovic and win the game.
For the second straight game, the Hurricanes are double-overtime losers and the series is right back to square one with it now becoming a best-of-three to determine which team will play on into the second round of the playoffs.
Carolina will have the home-ice advantage the rest of the way in games five and seven, but there’s no questioning which team has the momentum going in its direction. It’s up to the Hurricanes to throw the breaks on the Predators and remain unbeaten on their home ice on Tuesday.