In the biggest game of the season to date, the Carolina Hurricanes came out victorious, beating the Nashville Predators 3-2 in overtime thanks to a Jordan Staal winner to grab a 3-2 lead on the series.
The Canes didn’t play their best game but they found the win column all the same, as Staal’s overtime winner was accompanied by two fantastic goals from Martin Necas in regulation.
Here are some takeaways from the Canes win in their third straight overtime game:
The Martin Necas Show
The Canes really didn’t play all that well, particularly throughout most of the third period, but had an absolutely massive lift from Necas, who scored twice, including an unbelievable individual effort with just over seven minutes left in the game to tie things up and force overtime.
The first goal from Necas came in the first period, with the Czech forward joining the top power-play unit and making the absolute most of it. He unleashed a wicked snipe from the top of the circle, beating Juuse Saros and tying the game up at 1-1.
Martin Necas. Snipe. Tie game. pic.twitter.com/vFmlEmK1Yl— y - Canes Country (@CanesCountry) May 26, 2021
His second was even better, as Necas turned the speed up to 11 and carried the puck into the zone on his own. He held off his defenseman and took the puck behind the net, powering around the net and putting in a beautiful wraparound effort.
Down 2-1 in the third period with the season on the line.— y - Canes Country (@CanesCountry) May 26, 2021
Martin Necas, the stage is yours: pic.twitter.com/HskAPbJoXp
The goal, which turned around a pretty lackluster period for the Hurricanes that featured just two shots over the first 15 minutes or so, was huge, saving the game and very likely the series. After Necas’ tying tally the Canes took off, carrying all the momentum into the final break and overtime session.
“It wasn’t our best game tonight,” said defenseman Jaccob Slavin. “I think we got away from what makes us successful a little bit there. Obviously [Necas] had a great goal in the third to tie it up. He’s a special player, and he’s been playing like that all year. That’s huge.”
Necas is a budding star, something Hurricanes fans are well aware of, but he showed off that unreal talent on his biggest stage Tuesday night. When the Canes weren’t fully firing on all cylinders, Necas was, lifting the team in a near must-win game.
Another great captain’s effort from Jordan Staal
All season long Staal has been leading by example for the Hurricanes, and he’s already had quite a few standout moments through five playoff games.
Tuesday night was perhaps his biggest, as Staal tallied the game-winning goal in overtime to give the Canes a 3-2 series lead and stave off the chance of facing elimination the next time out. It was a grind-it-out goal for Staal, who batted it in to send Carolina fans home happy.
3-2 series pic.twitter.com/3TGNClfwiU— y - Canes Country (@CanesCountry) May 26, 2021
The goal was obviously huge from Staal, but it wasn’t the only thing the man wearing the ‘C’ on his sweater did well Tuesday night. Staal, as he has done so many times this season, played a great two-way game.
Staal was second on the team in shots (5) and expected goals (0.44), while also finishing second with seven hits. His two high-danger chances led the way, and he of course was good on the faceoff dot, winning 14 of 19 faceoffs.
Staal has been an exemplary captain for the Hurricanes all season long, and he once again gave the team a boost in the playoffs Tuesday night.
“It’s awesome,” said Slavin about being captained by Staal. “You see the emotion he had there at the end. He doesn’t always show it, but that’s the emotion he puts into every single thing he does. He’s a great leader on and off the ice. He’s a beast on the ice...He’s willing to do whatever it takes. I’m thankful I don’t have to play against him down low in the corners. I’m thankful he’s on our side.”
An escape job maybe, but a win nonetheless
The Carolina Hurricanes didn’t play their best game Tuesday night, and played probably the worst period of the postseason so far in the final frame (before the Necas goal, of course).
Rod Brind’Amour, Slavin, Staal and Necas all said pretty much that postgame, but the Canes found a way to get the job done, get a win and take a 3-2 lead in the series. Great teams find ways to win when they aren’t their best, and that’s exactly what the Canes did in PNC Arena in game five.
“It was huge,” Necas said. “Maybe we were a little bit nervous. You could see that in the third period. We didn’t play our best, but somehow we got the goal and in OT that was huge. We needed that, and we are so happy to be up 3-2.”
That third period was pretty ugly, an extension of a deflation in the team following a disallowed goal in the second period after Nashville successfully challenged for goaltender interference.
The Canes couldn’t get much going at all, failing to have clean entries into the zone and seemingly fighting it for 15 solid minutes when the team needed a goal the most.
But then Necas took the puck, flew into the zone and unleashed a stunning goal that will always be on his career highlight reel, and suddenly the Hurricanes were right back where they needed to be. The talent stepped up, and Carolina again looked like the team that won the Central Division and utterly dominated the Predators during the season.
A win is a win, especially during the playoffs, and the Hurricanes won Tuesday night. Now it’s on to Nashville, with a chance to end this series.