The Nashville Predators missed out on a golden opportunity to steal Game 5 in Carolina, with the Hurricanes being helped tremendously by a questionable penalty call in overtime.
After watching their 2-1 lead evaporate in the 3rd period when Martin Necas put home a wrap-around attempt, the Predators lost the game when Jordan Staal scored the game winner in overtime, out-muscling Ryan Johansen for a bouncing puck in front of Juuse Saros.
But only moments before that, with the Preds on a power play, Hurricanes forward Sebastian Aho skated strategically into the legs of Predators defenseman Alex Carrier, drawing an interference call.
Here’s a look at the play that led to the call:
Aho making that second double check to make sure he was skating into Carrier at the right angle pic.twitter.com/Jj4lScOYPO
— angrypredsfan (@AngryPredsFan) May 26, 2021
Watching that play, it’s pretty clear Aho, and not Carrier, was responsible for the collision. Interference, by definition, is any time “a player uses his body (“pick” or “block”) to impede the progress of an opponent (non-puck carrier) with no effort to play the puck, maintain normal foot speed or maintain an established skating lane.”
By definition, “using his body to impede the progress of an opponent” is exactly what Aho did, but the referees called Carrier for the infraction.
While it would be a stretch to say the Predators’ power play, which had scored only twice all series, could have scored to end the game, Nashville should have at least had a chance. Power play chances are extremely rare in playoff overtime, so it’s odd to see one taken away so easily and on such a questionable call.
“It was an unfortunate situation that happened, so I really can’t comment on whether it was embellishment or not,” Preds head coach John Hynes said after the game. “But probably going on the power play in overtime in that type of situation, something that’s close like that winds up getting called. So, it is what it is in that situation tonight.”
— AtoZSports Nashville (@AtoZSports) May 26, 2021
Jordan Staal put home the game winner 20 seconds after the penalty was called.
Penalty aside, Preds missed an opportunity
Even with a questionable penalty negating a Preds power play in overtime, Nashville really missed a huge opportunity to steal Game 5.
First, they went up 1-0 on a tipped goal by Yakov Trenin, putting the Hurricanes on their heels early. Carolina would bounce back, getting a power play goal from Martin Necas less than three minutes later.
But then the Preds capitalized 53 seconds into the 2nd period when Colton Sissons found Trenin on a 2-on-1, who then beat Hurricanes goalie Alex Nedeljkovic on the near post to put the Preds up 2-1.
From there, the Preds put a solid neutral zone trap on the Hurricanes attack. Choking all points of entry on their own blueline, the Canes did not have much room to work into the Preds’ zone. That is until Necas sped through the defense and wrapped around the game tying goal with 7:05 left in regulation.
At that point, the home crowd immediately sprang to life and the Hurricanes’ onslaught was tough for the Preds to match.
But if you are Nashville, you have to think of all the missed chances, especially in the 3rd period, to put the game away. Multiple Preds forwards had the puck on their stick near the Hurricanes net in the final 20 minutes with a chance to go up by two goals, but they couldn’t capitalize. Ryan Johansen had a wide open look in front of Nedeljkovic, but missed the net. Roman Josi had a clear shot from the left circle, but opted to pass instead.
And then there’s the Preds’ power play, which went 0-for-3 on the night, reminding us of just how bad it can look. While the penalty in overtime helped eliminate yet another chance, it’s hard to say how much the Predators could have done to win the game with yet another pitiful effort by that unit.
Worst of all? Yet another wasted outing by Juuse Saros, who was sensational in goal again. He had 34 saves on the night and truly deserved a better result.
Now the Nashville Predators face an elimination game on Thursday in Nashville and their only path to winning the series lies in winning two straight over Carolina.
— Featured image via James Guillory/USA TODAY Sports —