The Carolina Hurricanes entered their Friday-night date with the Nashville Predators in the midst of their worst stretch of hockey this season.
After the disaster that was Wednesday night’s loss to the Florida Panthers, the Hurricanes desperately needed to get back in the win column against the Predators. They went through another scare, but this time, they managed to close things out en route to a 5-3 win ahead of their trip to Pennsylvania.
The opening minutes of the game looked like a continuation of how the Hurricanes played at the end of their disappointing loss to the Panthers. They didn’t register a shot on net until the 11-minute mark of the first period, after squandering an earlier chance in the high slot with too many passes and getting hemmed into their own end thanks to Nashville’s heavy physical forechecking.
The team started showing some life by the mid-way point of the opening frame, responding to Nashville’s physicality and eventually scoring the game’s first goal as a result of a pretty egregious defensive breakdown.
Brady Skjei was given all the time and space in the world, and he made the Predators pay for it when he glided in off an offensive zone faceoff and roofed a backhand shot by the glove of Juuse Saros.
Tempers boiled over shortly after the first goal when a late hit from Filip Forsberg on Andrei Svechnikov garnered a high cross-check response from Sebastian Aho. Forsberg threw some punches, but the Canes ended up on a short-lived penalty kill thanks to a roughing penalty from Ryan Johansen on Vincent Trocheck.
The second half of the period was terribly disjointed, ending with another penalty on Carolina. Frederik Andersen made a huge stop on Eeli Tolvanen from the slot in the final minute, preserving the Hurricanes’ 1-0 lead through 20 minutes.
The Hurricanes played the rest of Friday’s game without second-line center Trocheck due to an upper-body injury.
The game started to flow a bit more in the second period, with both teams generating back and forth chances at 5-on-5.
With Trocheck out, Kotkaniemi bumped up the lineup and put the Hurricanes ahead by two goals with a wicked wrister from the slot at 5:14. Martin Necas came through with a slick set-up pass for his second assist of the night.
It was a well-paced period of hockey from there as both teams left the over-the-top physicality behind and stayed out of the penalty box until the final few minutes of the period when Johansen caught his second whistle and put the Canes on the power play.
Carolina didn’t do much, and shortly after the expiration of the power play, a bad line change gifted Nashville’s Luke Kunin with a high-quality chance from the high slot and he beat Andersen to cut the Hurricanes lead in half.
In danger of going into the intermission on that sour note, the Hurricanes rebounded and managed to deliver a dagger of a late-period goal.
In the final ten seconds, Svechnikov pushed the puck up ice and deep into the Nashville zone. That first line worked to recover the puck, and Jaccob Slavin smartly jumped into the zone to fire a shot over the shoulder of Saros with one second on the clock to give the Hurricanes breathing room again.
A huge early diving save from Andersen on Philip Tomasino set the tone for the majority of the third period.
6:18 into the period, the Hurricanes got a prime opportunity to put the game away, and that’s exactly what they did.
Anthony DeAngelo’s point shot deflected out to Teuvo Teravainen, who dished a beautiful pass across the slot to Svechnikov for Carolina’s fourth goal of the night, effectively closing things out.
Nashville pushed back late, forcing Andersen to make some outstanding saves, but they eventually broke through for two goals with their goalie pulled. Johansen fired home a great shot from a tough angle on his off-side to make it 4-2, and then a slick deflection from Tanner Jeannot made it 4-3.
A late slashing penalty on Roman Josi put Nashville’s comeback hopes to bed with just over a minute to go, as Svechnikov put the puck into the empty net to make it 5-3 and save the Canes from another disaster.
After the collapse on Wednesday added to what had been a rough stretch of hockey, the Hurricanes desperately needed to collect two points, and they did just that thanks to timely conversions offensively and an outstanding showing from Andersen.
The Hurricanes got multi-point games from Svechnikov, Slavin, Aho, Necas, and Skjei in the win. Andersen stopped 28 of 31 shots, including 14 of 16 in a hectic third period.
Carolina will hit the road this weekend, taking on divisional opponents in the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday and Monday.