The Carolina Hurricanes clinched their first round series against the Nashville Predators with a 4-3 overtime win in Game 6 Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena.
The team came back from a two-goal deficit thanks in part to a two-goal performance, including the overtime winner, by Sebastian Aho as well as the late tying goal by Dougie Hamilton.
After the game, head coach Rod Brind’Amour as well as Hamilton, Aho, Jaccob Slavin and Brock McGinn spoke to the media via Zoom. Here’s what they had to say:
On the leadership group driving the game: That’s a great point. We were not playing well. Let’s be honest. For a couple of periods. Martinook was having a good game all the way through. And obviously Slavin. And then Seabass got one through at the end. Your best players have to be your best players and obviously tonight we struggled for a while, but then they took over. That’s what has to happen.
On the group’s resiliency: It doesn’t surprise me anymore because it’s been like that all year. All year. We’re playing games and aren’t great and we look like we probably are out of it and then they just get it together. It’s a special group here. I know every coach would say that about their team but they’ve proven it over and over and over. That’s special.
On getting the team geared up for the third period and overtime: The first two periods were not Hurricanes hockey. The other team had a lot to do with it. You give them credit for sure, but it just wasn’t up to snuff. The guys did it. I don’t have to do anything. They take a lot of pride in how they play. It was great to get that power play goal to get us within one. That was really important and they knew they just had to win one period and they were back in the game. That was what happened. We probably could have even gotten a couple in the third, but we got one, got us into overtime and we had momentum and obviously we got the faceoff win and it ended up in the net. It’s all good.
On Brock McGinn reminding him of himself: I don’t know. He’s old school. So if you mean that. He could play back in the day. I’ll just leave it at that for sure.
On looking ahead to the Tampa Bay Lightning: We knew if we got through this series, whether it was going to be Florida or Tampa, was going to be, to me, the next best team in the league. Either one. Pick ‘em. Stanley Cup champs or I thought FLorida had played great all year. We’re getting the Stanley Cup champs. We know what we’re up against. We’re going to have to be as good as we can to have a chance against these guys. Especially now when they kind of have their full group back. It’s a great challenge for us and we’ll give it all we got.
On Alex Nedeljkovic: He didn’t look like a rookie. That’s for sure. Tonight was probably the one game he’d have said was probably not his best. He was kind of fighting it a little bit with the puck, but that was a big part of the series for us. His puck handling. He was able to get us out of trouble and alleviate a lot of the stress. He was solid and that’s what you have to have at this time of year.
On sensing that the game was going to go the Canes’ way: You never feel that way. You could tell at least we were going to have a chance. That was what was good for me. The first two periods felt like we were just hanging on and that was like not good. Then we flipped it obviously and that was like, ‘Okay. We’re going to get an opportunity. Something’s going to happen.” The flow, we had tilted the ice. You don’t know if you’re going to get it, but you certainly liked what you saw and obviously we pulled it off.
On the growth and maturity of the team: They take a lot of pride in how they play and how they represent each other and our organization. You can just see it. I think they also are hungry. They’re hungry and they want to win. They know that it takes a lot to win. The older you get, the more times you go through it and you realize how hard it is to win. They want to take advantage of every chance they get and this is one of them.
On giving up the first goal in five of the six games in the series: Obviously it’s not something that we want to keep up, but I think that’s the thing. We’re not trying to give up the first goal. But the fact that when we do, it’s not over. That’s a real confidence boost for this team moving forward.
On matching Nashville’s intensity: We weren’t there for the first half of the game or first almost two periods. But then it got to the point where it was our turn for now or never. It was like it was on the line. I think then we did match it. it’s tough for them, I get it. They’re up a goal and it’s that hanging on kind of thing while we have nothing to lose and just kind of are throwing everything at them. That’s what happened and we were able to tie it up. I give full marks to Nashville. It’s a great team. There’s no weaknesses in that group. All the games were tight.
On switching up the lines early into the game: We had a plan going in that we were just kind of going to see what their matchups were going to be on us. Then what I saw they were thinking of doing, that’s when we made the change. Didn’t work obviously for the first two periods then we changed it up again and I think that worked, but probably over thought it a little bit maybe. But that’s coaching.
On Jaccob Slavin giving Dougie Hamilton more confidence: Just in general with the whole group. He goes in the lineup and we didn’t lose. He’s that important to this team. We all know that he makes everyone around him better and he plays with Dougie most of the time so that’s only going to make Dougie better. It’s a great pair. He was obviously the difference maker. That’s pretty obvious.
On how nice it was to close the game out so quickly in overtime and close out the series: It was pretty awesome to not have to play too much longer. We were all really happy about that. We just said to stick to our game. We didn’t say too much. It was a great play. Good shot, good tip. We’re very happy.
On Jordan Martinook’s impassioned speech to his teammates after falling behind 3-1: We had to wake up, and he was doing his thing. It was big for us. I think he drew a penalty after that and we scored on the power play. It was big for him to step up and the rest of us to follow. It could be the turning point for us.
On the set faceoff play that led to him scoring the game-tying goal: We saw that a while ago. It’s tough to pull that off. I saw their guys were tired, they had been out there for a while. I told (Slavin) let’s run it and it couldn’t have worked out more perfectly. It was a huge goal for us and I’m glad it all worked out.
On if it was a relief to see the puck go in for him: It’s nice to see the puck go in. I didn’t care if it was mine or whatever. I had a couple of shots that got blocked. I didn’t have a shot all game until the goal. Like I’ve said all year, that’s how hockey works. You can have 30 shots in five games and have one in a game and score. It’s nice to see that go in and keep playing.
On what about this team keeps them in games and coming back the way they do: I don’t know. I’ve noticed that for a while. We just keep playing. We’re a resilient group and we just keep playing no matter what happens. We just keep going. It’s been like that for a couple of years now. We’ve been in every game all year. There’s no quit in us. I don’t know what it is. We just keep playing. We have a lot of good guys on the team. We know our roles and we know what we have to do. We play for each other.
On Alex Nedeljkovic’s performance as a rookie in the first round: He’s been unbelievable. He has so much confidence, a quiet swag to him. It helps our team. He’s just so calm in the net and plays the puck so well, makes huge saves. It’s easy to play in front of a guy like that. I’m really happy for him and hopefully, we can keep it going.
On the team’s resilience in coming back from a 3-1 deficit: I didn’t think (we were good), especially in the first two periods. Obviously, Nashville was good, but I felt like we weren’t quite there. The third period was an unbelievable effort through the lineup and in OT as well. It just shows that there’s no quit in this team and we have that confidence that we’re still in the game even when we’re down by a goal in the third period.
On if the team’s leadership group led the way to their comeback in game six: Roddy says we need 20 guys on the rope. It’s every guy in the lineup. It’s the playoffs, so we can’t have 18 or 19 guys playing well, it has to be everyone. Every guy stepped up in the right moment tonight and got us the win.
On if the Hurricanes matched the Predators’ intensity in the series: I don’t know. They were really good in the first two periods. They came at us hard and forechecked really well and put a lot of pucks in our net and created a lot of stress in our zone. They played a really good game, but we buoy a game. I’m happy with our effort towards the end of the game.
On the mood in the locker room after the ups and downs of that series: It was a great series. A great battle. They’re a really good team and they grind like any team this time of the year. We lost the first two double OTs, it hurt. It’s a sucky way to lose a game. We turned it around in Raleigh in OT with Jordo’s huge goal. We had more confidence tonight because of it. Because we had that experience winning that OT games.
On if having all of this playoff experience now helps them as they go up against the defending Stanley Cup champions: I think we’ve been through a lot, even though we’re a young team. It definitely helps. It’s the third straight year we’re in the playoffs, and we try to learn every year and every game. It doesn’t matter if it’s a win or a loss, it’s a process. I think we’re on the right track. They’re the defending champs, and there’s a reason for that. They’re a very good team and we have to play our best to beat them.
On how he feels after a fourth straight OT game: I feel fine. Winning gives you so much energy. I feel pretty good.
On the team’s resilience in coming back from down two goals: I think that’s something our team does. In this series, we got behind the eight-ball in most of the games and we did a good job of fighting back and not quitting on the game. To get that one was big going into the second period. Fighting back down by two, I think this team is showing maturity and we just have to carry on going forward.
On what the focus is going into the second round: They’re a very good team in Nashville. They did a good job of getting us away from our style of play and out game. Going into the next series, we have to focus on sticking to our system and our game plan. Stick to it for a full 60 and not have those mental breakdowns where we put ourselves behind the eight-ball.
On Jordan Martinook’s impact on the team: What can you say about Marty? He’s a great leader on and off the ice. He plays a hard game and that’s what you need in the playoffs. You need those guys to go out there and crash and bang. As the series goes on, it weighs on players and they’ll think twice about going and getting that puck. Marty calming the bench down got us back to our game there. We went out and threw everything at them in the third and we fought back into the game and won it in overtime.
On how the team fought back: I think we didn’t get to our game, then we’re down two. Then we did a good job of fighting back, but we have to do a better job of not putting ourselves into those scenarios. I think it shows a lot of resilience in this team and this group and the confidence we have in eachother. Going into the next series, we gotta enjoy this for a little bit here and then we’ll come back and focus on Tampa.
On the mood in the locker room after the comeback win: The room’s ecstatic. It was a good series. The boys battled really hard. Sitting out wasn’t fun, but it’s what needed to be done for me to be able to come back, be healthy and be strong and help the team in whatever way I can. The guys battled hard and it’s onto the next round.
On the faceoff play that tied the game: You play a team this many times in a row, you see how they react to certain plays we run. Before the faceoff, we said let’s send both D. Dougie ended up being wide open and it was a nice way to get the game tied up.
On how having lots of playoff experience now is helping them and will help them moving forward: It’s huge. Any experience you get in the playoffs is big. The last couple of years, we’ve been there. We’ve had our highs and had our lows. It’s huge to have that experience and to be able to battle back and continue to get that experience moving forward. The resilience we have in this group is awesome. We just have to keep moving forward.
On his injury and how he feels after sitting out for a few games in the first round: I think it’s progressing in the right way. As much as I hated sitting out of those games, I think it was the right move. If we want to make a deep playoff round, I want to be healthy in the later rounds and not try to push it too hard. It is feeling good these past two games. I’ve felt good out there and felt confident in my skating abilities. Just being able to help the team out and not hinder them in any way. I’m thankful for all the people praying for me. There were a lot of people who have reached out to me during this time and I’m thankful for that.