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The Difference in Overtime
Who better to score A Big Goal than The Big Fella himself?
Jordan Staal, who recorded 16 goals in the regular season, netted his fourth goal in five games at the 2:03 mark of overtime in four-on-four play. Jaccob Slavin went D-to-D with Brett Pesce, who put a wrist shot on net with Staal providing traffic in front. Juuse Saros bodied down the shot and knifed the rebound, popping the puck into the air. Staal whacked at the puck and got just enough of it to slip a bouncer through Saros.
Video: NSH@CAR, Gm5: Staal wins Game 5 in overtime
Staal raced into the corner and then turned back toward the ice, spreading his arms wide, the intensity radiating off his face.
"I just wanted some bear hugs from the fellas," he said.
Ain't that the truth.
"You see the emotion he had in the end. He doesn't always show it, but that's the emotion he puts into every single thing he does," Slavin said. "He's a great leader on and off the ice. He's a beast on the ice, and off the ice he's a great guy, great leader and great teammate who is willing to do whatever it takes."
After two games of double overtime disappointments, after two periods of frustrating hockey where not much seemed to bounce the Canes way, after working and working and working for a bounce, Staal and the Canes got one.
"It's just nice to get rewarded," Staal said. "We've been working for those, and I'm glad we got one tonight."
"At the end of the day, it was good that we got rewarded tonight," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "We finally got a bounce, something that went our way that we haven't had all series. I think that was nice."
The Difference in Regulation
"Y'all having a good time out there?" Pitbull's "Don't Stop the Party" asked, as it blared inside PNC Arena. But, no, the Canes were not having a good time.
Down 2-1 with eight minutes and change to play in the regulation, their season seemingly hanging in the balance, the Canes had played arguably their worst 11 minutes of the series. They were getting out-shot 5-2 in the period by a Nashville club that was clogging up the neutral zone and stymieing any sort of offense the Canes were trying to generate. The problem was, the Canes also weren't establishing the game they had in the first 40 minutes, either.
"We were running out of time. We were stagnant," Staal said. "The energy was kind of getting low. We needed a push from everybody. Going up and down the bench, we needed everyone to give a little more."
Brind'Amour let the bench know.
"We had a great game going, and in the third period, that was our worst 10 minutes. We were just not doing what we had to do," Brind'Amour said. "We had to get back to doing what we do. That was it."
And the bench responded.
"We're a team that likes to get pucks to the net and grind down low. We weren't doing that," Slavin said. "He was just saying, 'This is what our year is coming down to. We're either going to take advantage of it or we're going to have all this work we've done all year for nothing.' Guys were ready and responded well."
Enter Martin Necas, delivering the biggest goal of his career when the Canes needed something - anything.
Remember his goal on March 25 in Columbus? Think that - exactly that, more or less - but on a much bigger stage.
From the neutral zone, Necas cranked up the engines and motored through a flat-footed Filip Forsberg and a reaching Ryan Johansen. Once into the offensive zone, he sped past Matt Duchene circled behind the cage and buried a wrap-around shot from down on his knees.
Video: NSH@CAR, Gm5: Necas beats Saros with a wraparound
"Nechy obviously has some great talent. He found a way to get us going," Staal said. "A talent like that can change a game. He had an unbelievable game."
The goal, Necas' second of the game scored with 7:05 left in regulation, breathed life back into the Canes.
"We definitely have talent," Brind'Amour said. "The talent got us back in the game. Basically, a solo effort, and that got us back to having a chance to win the game."
Let's not overlook Necas' first of the game, either, which he scored on the team's first power-play opportunity not even three minutes after Roman Josi floated a point shot off Steven Lorentz and Yakov Trenin to open the scoring.
After having one shot denied from atop the right circle, Necas got the puck on his stick again and cranked a wrist shot past Saros to tie the game at one in the first period.
Video: NSH@CAR, Gm5: Necas wires home PPG past Saros
"He's a special player, and he's been playing like that all year," Slavin said.
Plus: Jaccob Slavin returns
What a difference having Jaccob Slavin back in the lineup makes, right? That shouldn't be a surprise, though, considering Slavin is one of the elite defensemen in the National Hockey League.
"It's awesome to get back out there and battle with the guys. They've been battling hard this whole series," Slavin said. "We got a huge win. That's all that matters."
After missing the last three games with a lower-body injury, Slavin returned and logged a game-high 26:08 of ice time. He chipped in an assist on Necas' game-tying goal in the third period and added two hits and a blocked shot. Slavin now has 14 points (1g, 13a) in 25 career playoff games, the most points in franchise history by a defenseman in his first 25 postseason games.
Minus: What is goaltender interference?
Staal seemed to have tied the game at two in the second period, a point shot that ricocheted off his skate and in, but after a coach's challenge from Nashville, the goal was wiped off the board. Why? Here's the official explanation from the NHL's Situation Room:
"Carolina's Warren Foegele impaired Juuse Saros's ability to play his position in the crease prior to Jordan Staal's goal. The decision was made in accordance with Rule 69.1 which states, in part, 'Goals should be disallowed only if: (1) an attacking player, either by his positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper's ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal.'"
But you be the judge.
Saros had to get to his left to make the save, but it's not Foegele who prevents him from moving laterally - it's Roman Josi, his own defenseman.
Let Brind'Amour take it from here.
"I get why they called goalie interference. Foegs was there initially. And had that shot come initially, I think it's goalie interference, but it didn't come initially. Then, [Foegele] gets out and their guy (Josi) clearly pushes him and interferes with the goalie. It's not our guy. There's no chance [Saros] is making that save anyway," he said. "There needs to be a little more common sense on that in my opinion. It's clearly their guy preventing the goalie from making the save, not our guy. That's my take on it. I got a different explanation on it. It is what it is."
It is what it is, indeed.
1: For the first time in franchise history, the Canes have played three consecutive overtime games in the postseason. The Canes are now 24-17 in playoff overtime games and 13-8 at home.
2: Staal's game-winning goal was the second playoff overtime goal of his career, both of which have come with the Canes. His first came 4:04 into overtime in Game 1 of the Second Round against the New York Islanders in 2019.
Quote of the Night
"We knew we had to do whatever it takes to come away with the win. This is a huge win." - Jaccob Slavin
It's back to Nashville, where the Canes can close out this series in Game 6, a late 9:30 p.m. ET puck drop on Thursday.
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