NASHVILLE - The Carolina Hurricanes dropped a 5-4 double-overtime decision to the Nashville Predators in Game 3 in what was the second longest playoff game in franchise history.
Brett Pesce tied the game late in regulation, but Matt Duchene netted the winning goal 14:54 into the second overtime period.
"That's playoff hockey. It was a grind of a game. They're going to be tight," Jordan Staal said. "I thought the boys battled hard. We were on the wrong side of this one, but we're going to come back with an even better effort next game."
HIGHLIGHTS | PHOTO GALLERY | STATISTICS
Jordan Staal sighed as he sat down for his postgame media availability. Brett Pesce crossed his arms, the despair evident on his face. Rod Brind'Amour sighed and sat back and marinated on what he wanted to say - and he had some things to say, indeed.
It was a drain. It was a battle, all 94 minutes and 54 seconds of Game 3, and for the first time this series, the Canes came out on the wrong end of the final score.
The game-winning goal developed seemingly innocent enough - and that deep into overtime, that's typically how it happens. Roman Josi elevated the puck, flipping it out of his own end. Matt Duchene gave chase and weaved around Jake Bean before chipping the puck over Alex Nedeljkovic.
And that was it.
"It's tough. I thought we worked really hard. We had a ton of chances to finish that game," Pesce said. "It's not a good feeling, but every team goes through adversity. It's a long playoff run, and I think this is going to make us stronger."
The Canes, Brind'Amour said, had nothing to hang their heads about. The immediacy of the loss stung, no doubt, but moving forward in the series? The Canes are just fine.
"Everybody played their ass off tonight," Brind'Amour said.
Pesce is having himself a series.
With Jaccob Slavin sidelined in Games 2 and 3 with a lower-body injury, Pesce has been the Canes' anchor on the blue line. He logged 28:01 of ice time, including more than nine minutes of shorthanded time on ice, in Game 2. He followed it up by playing 39:27, which included nearly seven minutes of shorthanded time on ice, in Game 3. He recorded two shots on goal, six additional attempts and two hits - plus an all-important goal late in regulation.
From the left-side point, Pesce fired a wrist shot that eluded Juuse Saros through traffic.
Video: CAR@NSH, Gm3: Pesce beats Saros to tie game in 3rd
The goal was Pesce's first career tally in the postseason and his fourth point in the first three games of this series.
"The guy has been an absolute animal," Staal said. "With a big guy out, man has he stepped up and played well. He's done everything. Another great game by him. He battles hard. You've got to love it. He's awesome."
There's no stopping The Big Fella when he's rolling like this.
Staal netted his third goal in as many games, and he did so on a breakaway, burying a quick snap shot blocker side on Saros to tie the game at two early in the second period.
Video: CAR@NSH, Gm3: Staal drives in and wrists puck home
Staal finished the night with three additional shots on goal, one attempt that was blocked, two hits, a blocked shot and a 60 percent faceoff win rate in 29:33 of ice time.
You can't give Vincent Trocheck time and space. Like, any. From a seemingly impossible angle, Trocheck gave the Canes their first lead of the game on their second power play in the second period.
From along the goal line, Trocheck wired a snipe of a shot top-shelf through the tiniest of holes above Saros' right shoulder.
Video: CAR@NSH, Gm3: Trocheck goes upstairs on power play
5: Sebastian Aho tied the game at one in the last five minutes of the first period, a simple put-the-puck-on-net-and-good-things-will-happen sort of play.
From behind his own net, Roman Josi chipped the puck up the boards. Duchene was waiting for it along the near side, but Brady Skjei pinched and sealed the clearing attempt. Aho jumped on the loose puck and tossed it to the net, where it seemed to take a bounce off Josi and in past an unsuspecting Saros
Video: CAR@NSH, Gm3: Aho's shot deflects in to knot score
The goal was Aho's 27th career playoff point, and he has now surpassed Cory Stillman, Justin Williams and Ray Whitney for sole possession of fifth place in franchise postseason scoring history.
1: Max Lajoie made his Stanley Cup Playoffs and Hurricanes debut in Game 3. He paired with Jani Hakanpaa on defense and, in his first NHL action since Dec. 2019, he logged three shots on goal, one additional attempt, a hit and a blocked shot in 16:54 of ice time.
"He did great. He didn't look out of place," Brind'Amour said. "He looked great. That's a tough spot to throw him in, but I thought he was good."
"The kid played really well. I thought he skated well and made the right decisions when he had the puck. He just played steady, and that's what you want," Staal said. "He showed great poise and good skating ability."
67:28: Pesce has been on the ice for 67:28 of the last 154:54 played in this series.
6-for-7: For the second game in a row, the Canes found themselves on the man disadvantage seven times. They killed six of them to improve to 16-for-17 in the series. Meanwhile, the power play converted one of its three chances.
If those numbers sound familiar - seven power plays for Nashville versus three for Carolina - that's because they are. Game 2, a regulation finish, was the exact same. That the Predators have been on the power play 14 times to the Canes six over the last two games did not sit well with Brind'Amour.
"We're in a battle. Nashville is a phenomenal team, but we're also fighting the refs. That's plain and simple," he said. "You can't tell me two games in a row we get 7-8 penalties and they get three when the game is this even. It's not right."
Quote of the Night
"I think our group is going to rebound and come out with an even better effort next game." - Jordan Staal
Game 4 is a Sunday afternoon puck drop.