RALEIGH, N.C. – The Carolina Hurricanes dropped a 2-1 decision in overtime to the Nashville Predators at PNC Arena on Saturday.
Following a 4-2 win over the Washington Capitals on Thursday, Carolina sought to win its fourth game in seven days.
However, that didn’t happen, and instead the Hurricanes (16-17-6) settled for a point.
“I thought it was a real even game,” Carolina head coach Bill Peters said.
“I didn’t think there was much room either way. I thought their D skated well and were gapped up and I thought it was tough to generate any chances either way.”
Eddie Lack got his second consecutive start and made 19 saves in the losing effort while Nashville goalkeeper Pekka Rinne earned the win and allowed only one of 28 shots on goal he faced to get by him.
Victor Rask was the only Carolina skater who got the puck past the six-foot-five-inch netminder.
Rask opened the game’s scoring when he tucked away the rebound off Jeff Skinner’s scoring attempt in the opening period.
Skinner got the puck from Rask in the neutral zone and beat Nashville defender Ryan Ellis to the outside on the right before driving left towards the net and attempted to deke Rinne on the play.
After the netminder made the pad save, Rask outworked defenseman Mattias Ekholm and got his stick on the puck to score his 11th of the season and put Carolina ahead 1-0 at the 8:58 mark.
It would be the exception on a night that found both teams working the puck through the neutral zone, into the corners, back to the point, and towards the front of the net without much reward for it.
“I thought both teams had a hard time getting inside with any Grade A scoring chances,” Peters pointed out.
“I don’t know how many chances we had, but it didn’t feel like we were as dangerous as we’d like to be.”
Both Lack and Rinne squared up on shots throughout the opening 20 minutes as Carolina carried much of the puck possession time and the one-goal lead into the second period.
It was much the same way for the remainder of the game, and according to Carolina’s Jordan Staal, it would be the type of game that you would hope for a lucky bounce to go your way.
“It was a tight game,” Staal said.
“It didn’t look like both sides had a crazy amount of jump, but no one wanted to really give up much. Maybe not as much in the second, but the first and the third, I thought that we were holding onto the puck and creating a little bit of offensive zone time wearing their team down.”
“They’re a really good team,” Nashville head coach and former Hurricanes bench boss Peter Laviolette said.
“They’re playing really well defensively. They put lots of pressure on the puck from different areas – back pressure, East-West pressure – so there’s not a lot of space out there. We were a little bit slow catching up from that in the first period.”
Coming off a 5-1 loss to Dallas on Thursday, it was expected that the Predators (19-13-7) would employ a physical game, and they did just that, dishing out 48 hits to Carolina’s 28.
“There were some big hits,” Staal said.
“Bugsy (Brad Malone) had a great game and created some energy for us.”
Malone’s game high nine hits was almost matched by Nashville’s Mike Fisher who dished out seven of his own, including running Staal into the boards from behind and tossing Kris Versteeg into a linesman during the same shift.
Trailing by one, the Predators took advantage of a turnover during a Hurricanes power play opportunity in the second period.
Paul Gaustad evened the score while shorthanded when Ekholm’s point shot from the left wall redirected off him, handcuffed Lack and got past him.
The score was tied 1-1 with 7:25 to go.
Carolina couldn’t capitalize on the three power plays it was afforded throughout the first two periods and both teams remained even into the third.
Up to that point, Nashville held a slight 17-15 edge in shots on goal.
However, Carolina kept the Predators chasing throughout the final 20 minutes of regulation time, and outshot Nashville 11-3.
If not for Rinne’s work in effectively controlling rebounds, the result may have been different.
With four minutes remaining, the Hurricanes pelted him with two dangerous shot attempts in a row from Riley Nash and John Michael-Liles.
Carolina continued to press the Predators and kept them hemmed in their zone.
A point shot from Jaccob Slavin was stopped by Rinne with Joakim Nordstrom in front.
The forward and the netminder exchanged words and jostled slightly as the intensity of the moment showed with a minute remaining in regulation.
As play extended into the 3-on-3 overtime period, both teams continued to challenge and defend evenly.
With 1:51 remaining, Ekholm broke free off a line change and put a shot towards Lack that beat him high to the stick side and gave the Predators the win.
Just like that, the chess match that had ensued for just over 63 minutes ended abruptly.
Nashville was relieved to claim the extra point, while Lack and his teammates felt the sting of not finishing the hard-fought effort with a win.
“Obviously, I wanted this one,” Lack said.
“But just gotta look at the good stuff we did today and move on and look forward to Edmonton.”
Notes: Hurricanes forward Phil Di Giuseppe left the game at the 5:43 mark in the second period after colliding into the boards while following through on a check on Preds forward Eric Nystrom. Peters indicated that he underwent the concussion protocol and wasn’t sure of his status immediately following the game.