Analysis from Nashville
→ Sixty-five minutes wasn't enough to settle tonight's match-up between the Carolina Hurricanes and Nashville Predators, as the Hurricanes were involved in their first shootout of the season, and they skated away with the extra point. Jaccob Slavin scored the shootout deciding goal, and Cam Ward made 25 saves on 27 shots and stopped all three shooters he saw in the skills competition in the Canes' 3-2 win.
"We knew that they were going to come out hard. As long as we could weather the storm and regroup in the first intermission, that was key," Ward said. "I thought we did that, and we played much better as the game went along. It feels very good to get that extra point in the shootout."
Video: Slavin's shootout winner lifts 'Canes over Preds, 3-2
→ Seven of the Hurricanes' first 10 games have been decided by just a goal, and four of those seven games have required overtime, or in tonight's case, the shootout. With tonight's victory, the Hurricanes are now 2-2-3 in games decided by a goal this season. Tonight, down 2-1 in the third period, the Hurricanes needed someone to step up and make a play.
On the man disadvantage in the third period, Elias Lindholm spun to find Ron Hainsey streaking into the offensive zone. He fed him with a tape-to-tape pass, and Hainsey buried the shorthanded goal, the first of his 845-game NHL career. That tally evened the score and eventually forced extra hockey.
"You've got to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. It's fun to be in those situations where you've got a chance to win," Ward said. "You try to come up with the big play. You saw that with Ron Hainsey jumping in on the shorthanded goal. That changes the whole dynamic of the game when you score a shorthanded goal to tie it up. It gave us momentum, and it gave us life."
"You've got to step up and make a big play in close games, and that's what happened on the penalty kill," head coach Bill Peters said. "That's a huge play right there. Now you know you've got a point out of it, and you go to overtime looking for the other point."
→ Another player who stepped up with a big night? Cam Ward, who might have put together his best performance of the season. He single-handedly kept the Hurricanes' deficit to just a goal in the first period, turning away two breakaway opportunities in the process. In the third period, Ward slid across the crease to deny Viktor Arvidsson's opportunity to stretch the Predators' lead to two goals. And in the shootout, he turned away all three Predators' attempts.
"Outstanding," Peters said of his netminder. "He gave us a chance to get our feet underneath us, especially early. And then three-for-three in the shootout, which is huge too."
"They had some chances in the first period, but it was time for us to step up and make key saves at key times in the game," Ward said.
"It could have easily been 4-0 without him making some saves," Hainsey said. "He was there to stand tall and three in the shootout, too."
→ Slavin potted the lone goal of the shootout, and as the Canes' third shooter, it was the tally that secured the extra point for the team. Slavin faked like he was going to his patented backhand move, and Pekka Rinne bit on it. Slavin then slid the puck in forehand for the goal.
→ Just as the Senators did on Tuesday night in Ottawa, the Hurricanes pushed back in the second period after a languid first 20 minutes. At one point, the Canes hemmed the Predators in their own zone and rolled a forward line change, possessing the puck for nearly three minutes before Nashville was forced to ice it and call their timeout.
Not too long after, Jeff Skinner evened the score at one at the 13:25 mark of the period, as he grabbed a loose puck that popped off the far boards and spun off a defending Ryan Ellis to score his team-leading sixth goal of the season.
"We got better as it went along once we spent some time in the O-zone. I thought our game came together," Peters said.
Unfortunately for the Canes, the Predators got another back for the end of the period, as Matt Irwin's shot from the point had eyes through a screen and beat Ward to make it a 2-1 game.
→ The Hurricanes did not get the start they were looking for tonight. Returning home from a weeklong road trip out West, the Predators had the early jump, and the Canes defense was loose. Carolina surrendered four breakaways during the first 20 minutes. Cam Ward turned away chances from James Neal and Yannick Weber, Ryan Johansen put an opportunity wide and Neal converted on one breakaway as he split the Canes' defense at the blue line and found the back of the net for the game's first tally. The Hurricanes also had two power plays in the first half of the period and failed to generate much momentum off either of them.
"You've got to find a way to get yourself going in the first, and we clearly did not. We gave up, I think, four pretty clear breakaways. Poor management with the puck, lost track of a guy," Hainsey said. "We knew that was as bad as it was going to get. Once we got ourselves moving … and in their zone, we were really, really effective."
"I think we gave them momentum with just the way we handled the puck early," Peters said. "We had some turnovers that led to some chances when they were in all alone on Wardo. That's just us, puck management and decisions."
"We don't want to be giving up that many grade-As in a game and certainly not that many breakaways, but he bailed us out big time," Skinner said.
→ It's a quick turnaround for the Hurricanes, who will be back in action on Sunday at 6 p.m. against the New Jersey Devils at PNC Arena. The team will lose an hour in the air traveling back to Raleigh tonight, but they'll gain it right back with Daylight Savings Time ending.
"Tomorrow we're back home and in our division," Peters said. "That's a huge game tomorrow."